Channeling Human Energy for International Health

Alanna Shaikh

We could build on existing structures, and channel additional human energy through them; they are already set up to select skilled people and match them to need.

I love the idea of harvesting the energy, knowledge, and creativity of
the people affected by the economic crisis. I know that we’ve seen
volunteering increase all over the country as people seek to use their
time in a positive way. I wonder, though, if creating a new
organization is the most effective way of improving the lives of women
throughout the world.

Starting a new enterprise is time-consuming and faces a steep learning
curve as the new effort gets going. In addition, I suspect that it
would be hard to find countries to host social change volunteers.
Governments are made up of people who benefit from the status quo; how
would we convince them to accept an influx of Americans determined to
be change agents? In addition, identifying people with the skills and
background to effectively improve women’s health and support social
change will be very difficult. That’s not a skill set that is easy to
acquire.

Maybe we could build on existing structures, and channel additional
human energy through them; they are already set up to select skilled
people and match them to need. We could expand Peace Corps, for
example, and gear it more toward woman. Peace Corps volunteers already
tend to be women; maybe a woman-to-woman program could be designed?
PCVs could run community women’s groups, and provide education on
relevant topics. We could also encourage Americans (or subsidize) to
become United Nations volunteers, which would also show a new American
commitment to multilateralism. Lastly, I think the new Global Health
Corps is an exciting experiment in connecting young people to global
health leadership opportunities.

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