I've always been fascinated by what makes people happy. It helps to accomplish goals and feel successful, but happiness also stems from appreciating little joys in life and interacting with people we care about. Needs like shelter, food, health, and basic human rights are incredibly important to being able to appreciate the world around us; without them individuals are automatically put at a disadvantage in their pursuit of happiness.
Health in particular is interesting to me. A person's health is impacted by dozen of factors, ranging from individual choice to environmental conditions and genetics. Health is tied to their socioeconomic status, education level, geographic location and access to resources.
By Beth He
“Gear up and Make Change”
Wali Sabuhi is a junior at Boston University (BU) studying Biomedical Engineering. Like millions of freshmen across the United States, Wali entered university wanting to make a local difference, and eagerly sought opportunities to expand and develop his skills and interest. As a freshman at BU, he joined Engineers Without Borders (EWB) as it seemed like the perfect opportunity to apply the skills of the classroom to real world issues. Wali did not anticipate how much EWB would impact his undergraduate experience and understanding of global development. Throughout his time at BU, Wali has become more involved in the leadership of EWB-BU, as he, after serving as a Hygiene & Sanitation Team Technical Lead, now serves as the Networking & Social Chair. Driven by student initiatives and inspired by the complexity of global development, Wali is committed to contributing to the UN’s Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Through support from BU College of Engineering and corporate sponsors, EWB-BU is able to employ small teams of students to travel to their community partners abroad and help implement the project designs. For the past four years, EWB-BU has been working closely with Naluja, a community in Zambia, on developing projects that have recently begun focusing on water sustainability. Wali was a member of the team last summer and spent three weeks in rural Zambia. He speaks of Zambia with such fondness, genuine joy and respect.
“It is beautiful,” a way Wali describes not only the scenery, but also the people and culture. It was in Zambia, traveling through the rural communities, that Wali discovered more to EWB than being a great engineer. It is of equal importance that partnerships and locally driven motivation are fostered to ensure sustainability and long-term efficacy.
EWB-BU students work throughout the calendar year to create, plan, and design successful projects for their partnering community in Zambia. During the twelve months in Boston, there is a major emphasis on building leadership, broadening student’s horizons, working across disciplines, and sharing resources throughout the project development process. Through the stress and chaos of college life, it is often difficult to see the bigger picture of their organization. In Zambia, Wali notes: “Everything you have worked toward is right there in front of you.” It is a moment of reflection, appreciation, and tremendous purpose that can be brought back to BU’s campus.
Community ownership is very important to EWB-BU. They are committed to ensuring that their projects are not only wanted by the community, but also feasible in rural Zambia. As such, EWB-BU is dedicated to valuing projects as a shared initiative and collaboration between its students and the members of Naluja.
Cultural Exchange: During Wali’s time in Zambia, he was able to interact with the chapter’s partners is Zambia. He remembers a nurse at the maternal health clinic who is the most “inspirational person [he’s] met.” Wali is always excited and passionate to share his experience in Zambia with other MCN fellows and his peers at EWB-BU. Experiences in Zambia have not only created inspiration but have also educated the EWB community on the importance of its projects and how they can be optimized for positive impact.
Sustainability of projects is significant to EWB-BU. After EWB-BU’s recently receiving a corporate sponsorship from Boeing (the second corporate grant awarded to the chapter), Wali is excited to work on growing EWB-BU by expanding water-related projects, solidifying local contacts, and empowering local change-makers to monitor projects. Wali and EWB-BU have set no ceiling to the chapter’s goals and continue to create bigger impact plans.
EWB-BU and time in Zambia have encouraged Wali to pursue a career in global development. He is in particular interested in global health and progress toward achieving the SDGs. For now, Wali is a key member of the ground network of university students dedicated to international development. As Wali eloquently put, “in 15 years, we [university students] will be the professionals playing pivotal parts in global development, whether it be through technology, advocacy, or policy.” Wali and MCN share the belief that investment in college students is the future for creating a more equitable world.
For more information about BU EWB, and how to donate: http://www.ewbbu.com/
This "Solidarity Share" was presented as part of a Keynote Plenary at the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference. Solidarity Shares were created by pairs of Delegates from different communities across the globe, finding shared points of struggle, joy, and connection. We hope their stories inspire you to connect across borders, to see the ways that struggles in your community might benefit from solidarity with others.
Mia: My name is Mia Lei, and I am from North Carolina, USA. In my community, poverty is a challenge for global health.
In developing nations, 90% of health care expenses are paid out-of-pocket - the cost burden falls overwhelmingly on the poor. North Carolina paints a similar for the 450,000 people who do not have health coverage and cannot afford basic health care due to politics. Poverty affects health the same everywhere- global is local and local is global.
David: My name is David Maduri, and I am from Kenya. In my community, poverty is a challenge for education.
Poverty is a barricade to a education. Forty two percent of children in Sub-Saharan Africa will drop out before graduating primary school - this leads to unemployment, which affects their ability to afford education for their own children - it is an endless cycle.
M: Poverty is the underlying determinant of all of our issues - it affects and is affected by health, education, environment, and technology. It makes our issues intersectional. And that intersectionality requires solidarity from us. By addressing poverty and addressing our issues together, we can create a stronger movement for development and equity. Just imagine if our movements worked together - think how much stronger we could be.
D: Imagine if there was an initiative to support rural children around the poor Lake Victoria region to get an education and make a difference in their own communities. That is my non-profit - educationHOPE. Imagine how children can make better decisions about their own health and their own lives once they´re educated.
M: Now imagine that there were student organizations that educated us not only about partnership-based service models and health inequities, but also empowered us with the strategic negotiating skills to create health policy change in our own communities. Those are my organizations - GlobeMed and the American Mock WHO.
D: Change is not necessarily the huge expectations of the world today , but the inconsiderable shreds of motivation that one puts on another´s life to make them realize their purpose. The foundation of the better world we want for a tomorrow is the action we take today - we are the future of the world.
M: As the future of our world, it is up to us to make the world the better place that we imagine. We can make the choice to fight for the right to not just survive, but thrive. We fight for change for with those in poverty.
And while we may fight with the poor, we are rich in so many ways. Change does not happen without power – and we are rich in the power of our experiences. Change does not happen without determination - and we are rich in our passion. And change does not happen without people - and we are rich in our communities.
D: Yesterday, many of our discussions focused on knowing the community we work in and listening to them before acting. Thus, solidarity is required not only between our issues, but also within our communities. When we work in solidarity, we will get more done, but recognition is shared.
M: So the question that I have for you today is this – why are you here? Are you here to feel good, or do good? Because they’re not always the same thing. Let us be students that do good and fight for change in solidarity with our communities. We challenge you not to focus on being heroes and changeMAKERS, but servers and changeAGENTS that work in solidarity with one another.
D: Our issues require action. Our issues require intersectionality. And our issues require solidarity. Our challenge is to work together.
M&D: Our struggles are your struggles.
By Srijesa Khasnabish, Delegate from Boston University
I initially wanted to attend the Millennium Campus Network Conference (MCC15) because I saw it as an opportunity to refuel my passion for global development. I’m a member of the Undergraduate Public Health Association (UPHA) at Boston University (BU) and during the academic year it’s easy to become engrossed in technical and tedious steps student organizations take to arrange events. It’s easy to forget why we’re passionate about issues like global health in the first place. MCC15 exceeded my expectations – it was the perfect balance of discussions, workshops, and keynote speeches to make me eager to implement the skills I’ve gained in my organization and capitalize on the connections I’ve made at MCC15.
MCC15 began with small group discussions revolving around themes deeply rooted in field of development, such as People vs. Objects. Prior to this discussion I didn’t realize how foreigners entering a community with good intentions could unconsciously objectify community members. Despite the best of intentions, objectification can cause community members to lose their respect for us and trust in us. This is not a solid foundation for a sustainable relationship. Another concept we discussed was Partnerships vs. Paternalism, which led to a conversation about the dynamics of the giver-receiver relationship. My group concluded that an ideal partnership should mirror a symbiotic relationship – one where both parties benefit and feed off of each other in a complimentary manner.
Following the discussions, students attended “Best Practice Workshops” that dealt with operations/partnership building, resources, leadership transition, and advocacy. Whether the workshop was led by a student from another university or a professional working for an NGO, I left the room with valuable skills and new connections. At “The Future of Fundraising” I learned about simple strategies on how to master bake sales to maximize profit. “Leading Leaders” was a fun workshop because it involved role-playing archetypal members of a student organization. Both workshops ended with a best practices summary, a resource that I will be able to look back at and share with others. The advocacy workshops forayed into topics ranging from how to craft the perfect elevator pitch to the pros and cons of slacktivism versus activism.
The climax of each day of MCC15 was the Keynote Plenary session, where we heard from highly accomplished and inspiring individuals from a diversity of professional backgrounds. This spectacle comprised of moving speeches, refreshing yoga breaks led by Movement Strong, spectacular performances by Flatline poetry and Alexander Star, and Solidarity Shares – where students from two different parts of the world discussed how their communities faced similar challenges and successes.
On day one Morgens Lykketoft (President-elect, UN General Assembly) spoke about the need for doers and not heroes and emphasized the interconnectedness of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Dick Simon (YPO-WPO Pace Action Network) explained how the term “them” has been “used to isolate, humiliate, and enslave.” Instead of looking at the giver-receiver relationship as an “us-vs-them” relationship, both parties should work together to create solutions. Shin Fujiyama (Co-founder of Students Helping Honduras) said: “With one twig you can’t start a fire. But with a bunch of twigs you can make a bonfire”. This metaphor resonated with me because when you are a student in a room filled with world famous individuals, it’s easy to feel intimidated. Fujiyama’s statement reminds me that we youth have power in our numbers and we can collectively make a huge impact.
The next day, five student-led campaigns were launched at the UN in the exact room where the SDGs were adopted. One of the keynote speakers was Dr. Sakeena Yacoobi, founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning, who said “I have been working twenty years but you guys are just in your teens and you are accomplishing so much. Thank you very much and the world is looking up at you.” Dr. Yacoobi’s faith in our generation makes me excited to work on a campaign.
On the final day of MCC15 we heard from Jeffrey Sachs who gave us delegates a group take-home assignment due in the year 2030: the SDGs. Vanessa Kerry (founder of Seed Global Health) told us “Change will happen because you will not demand anything less and you know it’s possible.” Photographer Annie Griffiths explained how “media tends to be reactionary and covers disaster not success.” Through her incredible photographs she showed how empowering women in developing countries can have meaningful and sustainable impacts. It was inspiring to hear speakers from diverse academic background because it not only emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of global development, but also reaffirms my passion to blend my two interests: neuroscience and public health. At the end of the conference, I was not sad but rather eager to implement these new skills and vision in my organization and excited to come back next year to share my progress.