Senior Synthesis…Yeah I Feel Sad Now…

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Life has the strangest ways of working it’s way out, it takes patience and time to grow into the individual you’d always hoped to become. I came to Plymouth State to be a nurse, to pursue my ultimate goal; improving the life of another person. I was so caught up on this idea that it was the only way to achieve my goal, until a I “failed”. It wasn’t until now that I realized, that my “failure” was actually my savior. Interdisciplinary Studies gave me the opportunity to be who I wanted to be with out limitations and utilize my education to the fullest degree. With this opportunity I was able to create my own major, Global Health with a minor in Spanish Language. Global Health addresses the well-being of people, ranging from high to low income countries and developing countries. The concerns within them include infectious disease as well as chronic and non-infectious diseases, age-related illnesses, and disaster relief conditions. In addition to more common health conditions, Global Health works with mental illness, trauma, violence, war and displacement. The goal of my Senior capstone project was to  combine both my research article and applied project, to educate individuals on how an interdisciplinary perspective such as Global Health, “can put things in a new light”.

Research Article

The goal of my research was to educate the reader of controversies that come with humanitarian aid assistance abroad. Humanitarian aid assistance is given to vulnerable populations who are plagued with violence and poverty. This aid can also target communities facing post-disaster reconstruction. The assistance can be short-term or long-term with the ultimate goal being to improve the lives of suffering communities. This article touches on what humanitarian aid is, who are the donors and recipients, what their relations entail, how humanitarianism and disasters relate and whether or not foreign aid is an unequal exchange. The term “humanitarian gift” is analyzed greatly throughout this article. The main focus of this research is to see the detrimental effects that can occur in another country if aid is given with selfish intentions. I chose to conduct this research because I wanted to challenge my own beliefs. I had become so wrapped up in the happy idea that I was helping others and improving their lives, that I never once stopped to think, what if they didn’t want my help? What if me voicing my opinions and my ideas was actually harmful? My experiences abroad gave me a new perspective on life that changed me for the better. Now that I wish to pursue a career in this field it is my responsibility to cover all the bases, whether it be positive or negative.

Applied Project

Changing the World Through Service: a Step by Step Guide has one main goal, and that is to inform the reader on how humanitarian aid is helpful.The information a reader can take away includes: the importance of humanitarians, in depth steps to planning your own service trip abroad, how to respect someone’s “dignity”, what is the meaning of privilege, what it means to be human & how they are affected by resources. In addition one can learn from my guidelines on how to be a “conscientious humanitarian”, and seek other experience through interviews with local NH humanitarians.

Conclusion? This Only the Beginning…

I had always heard that if something in your life is easy, it isn’t necessarily worth it. Being a student in the Interdisciplinary Studies Program here at PSU made me work toward a diverse education I am extremely grateful for. I learned how to be self sufficient and motivate myself to take the reigns of my everyday education. It opened doors to different branches of study, which strengthened my ability to think from a multitude of perspectives. Most importantly, I learned you do not have to stay satisfied with one discipline, depending on one’s mindset an IDS student can take the opportunity to become an expert in as many disciplines as they wish. My senior capstone project exemplified that there is a world out there for me, waiting to be explored. To be interdisciplinary, is a quality I believe everyone should strive for.


Heinrich, Tobias. “When is Foreign Aid Selfish, When is it Selfless?” The Journal of Politics, vol. 75, no. 2, Apr. 2013, pp. 422–435., doi:10.1017/s002238161300011x.

Princova, Kveta. “Ethical Challenges in Humanitarian Assistance” Socialmi Prace/Socialna Praca May 2011, pp. 40-48. Print.

Swamy, Raja. “Humanitarianism and Unequal Exchange.” Journal of World-Systems Research, vol. 23, no. 2, Nov. 2017, pp. 353–371., doi:10.5195/jwsr.2017.681.

Torrente , Nicolas de. “The Relevance and Effectiveness of Humanitarian Aid: Reflections about the Relationship between Providers and Recipients.” The Relevance and Effectiveness of Humanitarian Aid: Reflections about the Relationship between Providers and Recipients, vol. 80, no. 2, June 2013, pp. 607–634.

Wood, Reed M., and Christopher Sullivan. “Doing Harm by Doing Good? The Negative Externalities of Humanitarian Aid Provision during Civil Conflict.” The Journal of Politics, vol. 77, no. 3, 2015, pp. 736–748., doi:10.1086/681239.

The Last PLN Hoorah!


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Sitting here writing what seems to be my last PLN related post is unreal. I feel as though last week was September and I was sitting in class going over our new IDS Senior Capstone course syllabus and weekly PLN post instructions. The purpose of Twitter was to help explore different aspects of your self designed IDS major. This included organizations, celebrities, spokes people, charities, and campaigns who pertained to the field of your choice. Through the resources above, students could find more and more opportunities to explore.  As a Twitter feed began to build so did the ease to find new ideas, journal articles, scientific studies and news reports. My personal learning network was not limited to my Twitter account, I was able to use information learned in my classes, community lectures sponsored by the university and other information seen along the way. For example one of my most interesting PLN experiences was from the Fall 2017 Saul O Sidore Lecture Series. I initially attended the lecture simply because learning about advocating for a child’s access to health care was something that interested me. It was not until after the lecture I realized how it could tie perfectly into my Global Health personal learning network.  What is most beneficial about having a PLN through Twitter is it’s community aspect. Especially with fellow classmates it is a great way to share ideas related to another person’s desired field while in your own! A large improvement on my applied project was because someone shared an article with me that they saw on Twitter while scrolling through their feed. Due to this encounter I was able to strengthen my project! Lastly, what I found to be most beneficial about my PLN through Twitter were future career opportunities in the Global Health field. As a senior going into my second semester of college the pressure is starting to hit me. Simply scrolling through my feed I have seen opportunities for employment in which I hope to pursue. I am lucky to have an education where I mix social media to help improve my learning. To get a closer look at some of my favorite PLN tweets click here!

Think Before You Selfie

Volunteering Abroad? Read This Before You Post That Selfie

Written by Malaka Gharib

Photo by: SAIH Norway/Screenshot by NPR

I was very excited to write this PLN post for two reasons. One, I found it all thanks to my awesome advisor and professor who happened to think of me when she came across the article. Two, it was a perfect addition to my senior capstone project!! This article really hits home because it is criticism like this that originally made my blood boil and fuel my motivation to research the harmful effects a person can cause when in a culture that is different than their own. This summer was the first time in my life I questioned humanitarian work and it scared me. While in Argentina my roommate and I had a conversation and she said something along the lines of “I hate how people go into other country’s for a week and take pictures with all the little kids acting like they actually have an impact on their lives”. It felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I felt so hurt feeling and hearing criticism about my passion for the first time in my life. Initially, this article gave me the same exact feeling. But as I read on it gave me inspiration toward my applied project.

The article opens with a youtube video showing a girl frustrated with the fact that she wasn’t getting many likes on Instagram, she later realized in order to accumulate more likes she must travel to Africa to take photos with african children and patients laying in hospital beds.  But hey she got a spike in her Instagram likes!!

“Think before you selfie”

This is the serious message that is being promoted by Radi-Aid which is a project of the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH).  Their campaign aims to fight stereotypes in aid and development through guidelines targeted toward first-time travelers or young volunteers eager to capture every moment of their vacation or mission on Facebook or Instagram. What stood out to my most in the article was this: “according to the campaigners, the selfie takers may not realize that their posts, from the photo to the caption to the hashtags, can perpetuate stereotypes and rob the subject of dignity or privacy”. In addition to this campaign, the Barbie Savior Instagram account also was created to help show how the dignity of those who are in these selfies can be affected. This account spoofs volunteer photography by recreating popular images using Barbie dolls and Photoshop as a way to promote awareness to the public. This article was extremely beneficial for me and my applied project because I will be showing a person how to plan their own service trip!



Interdisciplinary Studies Senior Capstone Project

Education Has the Ability to Change a Person’s View on Life… I’m Lucky to Have Experienced the Change

Students enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Studies Senior Seminar course this fall were given the opportunity to take hold of their education, a way in which the average Plymouth State University Student might not have the chance to experience during their four short years in the classroom. And yes, four years is a time frame I wish everyday I could keep extending. But the truth is, time is beginning to dwindle with only one semester left, and with that comes self reflection. I have always been a people person, I have always loved helping others and seeing them grow to fit their true potential. Knowing that I played a part in someone else’s happiness, whether the act be big or small, it keeps me motivated to continue doing what I find constant joy in. College is a crucial time in a person’s life, whether the person be young or old, what is common among both is the large amount of time, money and their mental state, constantly being pushed to the limit. In my opinion there is a significant social stigma in today’s society to have a solid grasp on who you are and what you want to be for the rest of your life. In general, individuals are expected to know what their future career path is before they finish high school, in reality they are expected to “know” when filling out college applications in the first few months of their senior year. At this point in the individual’s life, they are either 17 or 18 years of age. An age where they can’t legally purchase tobacco products, a scandalous magazine or drink a beer at a bar top. Yet, there is immense pressure to decide your future career pathway with the simple check of a box on an application.  You can unclick that box as many times as you want, because you grow and change each day but with that comes the backlash of being “wrong” or being seen as a “failure”. I was one of the many experienced who experienced failure, or so I thought. I came to Plymouth State to be a nurse, to pursue my ultimate goal; improving the life of another person. I was so caught up on this idea that it was the only way to achieve my goal, until a I “failed”. My grades weren’t up to standard and I had no other choice but to step down from the nursing program. It wasn’t until now that I realized, that my “failure” was actually my savior. Interdisciplinary Studies gave me the opportunity to be who I wanted to be with out limitations and utilize my education to the fullest degree. With this opportunity I was able to create my own major, Global Health with a minor in Spanish Language. For my final hoorah I have been working on two key components which work in tandem to comprise my senior capstone project. First, individuals will read my research article Who Are We to Help People followed by my applied project Changing the World Though Service: A Step by Step Guide. The goal of my Senior capstone project is combine the two, and educate individuals on how an interdisciplinary perspective such as Global Health, “can put things in a new light”. With that being said welcome to my life for the past few months…

How Does One Narrow Down Their Future Career Path Into One Simple Research Topic?

I can guarantee that any college student will tell you that when a professor gives you the freedom to choose a research topic, there will come a point where you really wish they had given you a subject and a freaking word count. Thinking outside the box is a difficult task that can be hard to kick start… especially when the topic is just slightly important. Okay I say that with the heaviest sense of sarcasm… because what could be more important than a decision relating your college senior capstone project?? What I can say, because it is was what I did, is a person can narrow down a research topic of immense meaning through passion. When you choose a topic based off of a passion it can ease the struggle of intensive research and writing. I chose to research how humanitarian aid can be negative versus positive because I wanted to challenge my own beliefs. I have volunteered abroad and hope to continue with this kind of service, but I needed a reality check, I needed to be put into check in order to truly know how to respectfully participate in this kind of humanitarian work. I had become so wrapped up in the happy idea that I was helping others and improving their lives, that I never once stopped to think, what if they didn’t want my help? What if me voicing my opinions and my ideas was actually harmful? My experiences abroad gave me a new perspective on life that changed me for the better. Now that I wish to pursue a career in this field it is my responsibility to cover all the bases, whether it be positive or negative. My past experiences helped me grow, and define who I am today. What I took home with me was reflection and realization about the opportunities I have each day starting when I wake up in the morning. I not only needed to be grateful, but I needed to utilize my education to help those who don’t come close to the opportunities I have taken for granted, in many instances. It’s so easy to get caught up with the difficult  things in life, the negative feelings and bad days. The easiest thing to do is criticize yourself and the life you are living rather than see it for what it is worth. We tend to forget how beautiful it is to be alive and healthy. We forget how much a cure it is to laugh so hard you cry, to sit alone and eat a meal or sip a coffee, to take a hot shower while sitting on the floor. Life will always be a concept that no person will quite comprehend, but the truth is, that is why it is so damn wonderful. Life should be intoxicating… invigorating… passionate. Life should show you struggle and disappointment, so on other days you can truly appreciate what is means to experience genuine happiness. To be a human being, is one of the greatest gifts a person can have. It is hard to always be aware of this, so here is my reminder to you: life always has a funny way of working itself out, be patient. Patience is a reward in it’s self, and if you are doing the best you can with what you have, I promise you will be rewarded. I hope you, the reader of this post, find meaning in what is written below and can take a moment afterwards to reflect on yourself and those you have encountered through out this life. Cheers!


Who Are We to Help People?

A Close Look at the Controversies of Humanitarian Aid Abroad


The purpose of this research article is to inform the reader of the controversies that come with humanitarian aid assistance abroad. Humanitarian aid assistance is given to vulnerable populations who are plagued with violence and poverty. This aid can also target communities facing post-disaster reconstruction. The assistance can be short-term or long-term with the ultimate goal being to improve the lives of suffering communities. This article will touch on what humanitarian aid is, who are the donors and recipients, what their relations entail, how humanitarianism and disasters relate and whether or not foreign aid is an unequal exchange. The term “humanitarian gift” will be analyzed greatly throughout this article. The main focus of this research is to see the detrimental effects that can occur in another country if aid is given with selfish intentions.

What is Humanitarian Aid?

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The key intention of humanitarian assistance is to better improve the suffering of vulnerable populations in conflict-affected states through distribution of humanitarian aid (Wood 736). The term humanitarianism is defined as the giving or receiving of goods and services through a variety of circumstances (Swamy 355). This promotion of human welfare can be viewed as an act that;

“Should occur necessarily outside the the domain of the marketplace, shaped by the logic of the gift—conventionally understood to operate beyond the constraints and expectations of contractual exchange. Humanitarian gifts, however, are inextricably bound to structures and practices associated with the formal economy, and as such cannot be viewed in isolation from the domain of commodities, markets, exchange relationships, and patterns of inequality that shape global, regional and local relationships” (Stirrat and Henkel 1997).

The idea of the humanitarian “gift” will be a frequent topic of discussion and touched on greatly throughout the duration of this research article. The main points will reveal how this “gift” is seen to be beneficial while paralleling the arguments of controversy. Some even argue how acts of humanitarianism can at times be shielded behind the act of “gift” giving. While secondary motives are present to facilitate the state plans to rebuild a devastated region by relocating

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it’s inhabitants and opening land for investment (Swamy 354). This raises a question in which analyzes the importance of roles for non-governmental organizations, is the withdrawal process harmful?  Connecting, how their efforts coincide with the facilitation of a state’s withdrawal process. More specifically, examining the state’s withdrawal from a social situation and how weakening begins to occur within the state. Signs of weakening are exemplified through politics, but most visibly noted through the transformation of one’s “rights and entitlements” due to the gift (Swamy 357). How can one predict if a “gift” is well-intentioned? Can this be answered through history? Or does history repeat itself time and time again?

The historical role of humanitarian aid was born through the foundations of colonialism, racism, and imperialism within the constitution of disaster outcomes (Swamy 357). The quote below, seen in the journal article Humanitarianism and Unequal Exchange” by author Raja Swamy perfectly depicts the history of humanitarian aid (356):

“The historical role of many developing countries as taps and sinks for the accumulation of needs of Western capital has continued to shape production, exchange and consumption choices and strategies in developing countries. Furthermore, the world-system’s inequalities are shaped by historical patterns of extraction and production that advantage the global north, whose market demand disrupt and constrain production strategies across the world. Neoliberal

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 states in the periphery of the world-system have had to aggressively adopt strategies that privilege export-oriented production and foreign direct investment as necessary conditions for development, leading development countries like India to further entrench themselves within the world-system as taps and sinks for the accumulation needs of global capital, and in doing so intensifying assaults on local populations see to stand in the way of new market oriented forms of development that prioritizes the needs of private capital” (Chandrasekhar and Gosh 2002:6).

In addition, as read in Swamy’s article; “the terrain of humanitarian action was circumscribed by the ideological framing of existing inequalities advanced by multilateral agencies and state government officials” (359). This quote poses the first, of many controversial questions. Is humanitarian assistance harmful or

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helpful?  The benefits of this aid can be exemplified through projects including basic human needs such as: food, shelter, water, sanitation and health services. All of which, are conducted through the logistics of relief coordination, infrastructure improvement/reconstruction. These logistics work in tandem with short-term activities formulated to promote and restore the protection of civilians displaced by disasters and conflict (Wood 741). The distribution of aid can begin with small-scale projects such as “aid stations” which target smaller populations, giving a sufficient amount of food and basic medical needs. While on the other side of the scale is the larger aid assistance projects. These projects include “extensive services” such as education, training, labor programs, public health programs, and long-term housing to 

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larger populations (737). Whether the aid project falls to the larger or smaller side of the scale, humanitarian assistance is predominantly provided to those in need affected by violence or displacement (737). 

Who Are the Contributors of Humanitarian Aid?

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 A humanitarian is considered a person who devotes their time and effort to improving the lives of others. Throughout this process there are no acts of prejudice based off of ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, financial background, etc. A key goal in their efforts is to maintain human dignity for the person receiving aid. As mentioned before, aid can be distributed through small and large scale projects. Depending on the circumstance these aid workers must

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be sure to focus on the success of their main objectives and rely less on coercion (the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats). It can be a dangerous slope for donors having the power to decide how their efforts can unfold, power has the potential to breed greed (Wood 740).

“Aid provides donors some leverage over the actions of recipient governments and can serve as an important lever through which donors can influence recipient behavior. Donors can rescind aid when recipients fail to comply with expectations or engage in high levels of violence against civilians– through  humanitarian, political, or strategic concerns may make any donor reluctant to do so. While changes in aid flows or pressures from the donor states are likely to influence recipient state behaviors at the macrolevel, they should also affect local level behaviors. To the extent that governments prefer to conduct abuses and atrocities with as little attention from the international community as possible, they should be least likely to commit them in areas in which there are large numbers of witnesses. Because larger inflows of humanitarian assistance also bring with them significant numbers foreign aid workers, the level of scrutiny of government behaviors is likely to be highest in these areas. Consequently, the additional scrutiny applied to these areas should help ameliorate government abuse in these locations provided that the incumbent regime desires to avoid the opprobrium of the international community” (Wood 740).

The roads may not always be smooth, a humanitarian can at times find themselves in a slue of dangerous environments and situations, putting their lives at risk to help another in need. People who partake in humanitarian aid assistance do this job because they truly want to help others and improve the person’s overall quality of life. A humanitarian’s “workplace” is ever changing.

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They can be found working in a local setting or abroad, whether it be in a community office sitting at a desk or getting down and dirty building houses in a poverty ridden community abroad. The ultimate goal is to improve the lives of others no matter the location or circumstance. The ecological framework of unequal exchange helps demonstrate this.  The quote below, seen in the journal article Humanitarianism and Unequal Exchange” by author Raja Swamy gives readers a better understanding:

“The ecologically unequal exchange framework allows one to examine a broader set of socioeconomic phenomena such as the relationships, the roles of powerful players such as the state, multilateral organizations, and non governmental organizations in advancing and shaping policies, priorities and outcomes, as well as the patterns of resistance and adaptation of local populations to these” (Swamy 356).

Instances suggest that humanitarians do not receive the recognition they truly deserve, “it is a wonderful ability to to be able to understand struggle, loss, pain and fear and to turn that understanding into a humanitarian act.

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In turn, this brings happiness, not only to the one(s) in need, but to the person giving the helping hand” (Sokanu 2017). But this brings forth the argued question, does someone do this kind of work with the sole intention to help someone else or is their actual motive to make themself feel better? The answer can be argued in a multitude of ways, but ultimately it is based off of the worker and the situation. Each person in this world is different, society would not be unique if everyone thought and acted the exact same way. A humanitarian can help someone and help his or herself  simultaneously. It is when the means of humanitarianism

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becomes blurred and the outcomes of relocation are managed by a potential boost in economic development rather than focusing on the initial disaster (Swamy 361).

“Illegitimi Non Carborundum” Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down

What I can say through personal experience is this. You might start off with the thought that you will be saving another person’s life, when in reality they could be saving you. Whether you realize it in that moment, or years down the road, losing yourself in the service of others can truly impact you. During high school I struggled with depression, to the point in which I’m lucky to be sitting here writing this. I took some time off in my final semester and during that point a close friend, who was my service leader during trips came to visit me. At the time I was only weeks away from my second service trip and I wasn’t sure if I in the right mind set to go. He and I had developed a special bond on the first trip that I am grateful for till this day. I was in need of a reminder of who I was, and my purpose in life. With him he brought photos of my last trip with all the wonderful people I had worked with and helped. He told me they needed me.

El Salvador 2014

He told me that I needed to go and share my compassion and heart with people who needed it most. He told me I needed to be strong and build myself back up again. Him coming to me in my time of need made me realize that I did need to be strong, and that there were happy people who faced struggle I would never imagine facing. Him bringing the photos helped me but a phrase he said to me has never left my mind, ever. Illegitimi non carborundum, the latin meaning “don’t let the bastards grind you down”. What was so strange about this phrase was how later on that week a woman let me borrow a book of quotes, which I began writing down the ones I found comforting. A few pages in, in the middle of the page was Illegitimi non carborundum. Here I was in a mental state where I was constantly looking for reasons to feel sorry for myself and not

El Salvador 2014

continue on, and life was literally in my face telling me what I needed to do in order build myself up. I had never in my life heard the phrase, which made me realize then in that moment how crazy life can show you signs of reassurance. Dedicating my life to others and losing myself in service work saved me, when in reality I thought I was the one doing                                                                              the saving. This, is what influenced the decision to research controversy related to what I plan to continue with in my career future path. Perspective and work ethic can only formulate based on instances you encounter, and I needed to see that not every experience would be joyful and inspiring. In order to provide humanitarian aid one must be versatile in their actions, ready handle any situation, no matter the circumstance.

Who Are the Beneficiaries of Humanitarian Aid?

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In the past few years agencies and donor states provided about $14 billion each year in humanitarian assistance. Those who receive this aid are victims of natural disasters and violent conflicts (Wood 737). This assistance mainly helps with immediate needs for those who are displaced or affected by violence. The aid can be exemplified through material relief assistance, emergency food, relief coordination, protection and support services (737).  The majority of aid given is seen

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 in conflict-affected states which is beneficial, but on the other hand can add fuel to the problems with rebel violence which is present even before the aid arrives.

“Humanitarian aid sites such as refugee camps and aid stations often concentrate large amounts of valuable resources in specific geographic areas. As a consequence, these sites present valuable targets for rebels attemping 

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to replenish depleted sources or augment their capabilities. Predation is a common strategy of rebel resource acquisition, and rebels often engage in strategic looting and violence as means to compensate for short-term resource constraints” (738).

Humanitarian Relations Among “Donors & Recipients”

Touching back on aid and incentives for violence, it is important to analyze how the relations between the donor and recipient can be either beneficial or harmful. One can argue how the relationship can be harmful through the influence of aid on both rebel and government violence.

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Previous studies argue that “humanitarian aid can unintentionally create incentives for armed political actors to employ international violence against civilians in an around the areas in which in accumulates” (Wood 738). Humanitarian aid can induce rebel violence in two prominent ways, according to author Reed M. Wood in his article Doing Harm by Doing Good?

“First, it encourages looting and predation, which often result in significant abuses against the local population. Second, rebels often perceive humanitarian aid projects as direct challenges to their authority over the local populations. Where control or authority is threatened, rebels are increasingly likely to use violence as a means to deter civilian detections or eliminate the perceived threat” (738).

What’s most interesting about the relations between humanitarian aid assistance and government violence is how the aid can potentially create incentives for government attacks on civilians. This is more likely to occur if rebels successfully take over the aid and amplify its use to strengthen their motives. These acts put civilians at constant risk, especially when they are purposely targeted by rebels.

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These threats occur in and around aid sites, the catalyst for these threats is when rebels feel as though their ability to maintain loyalty with their local community is at risk. Although there are instances where rebel forces have been successful, they are not common. This is due to rebel forces absence of quality military capabilities and lack of ability to integrate projects into their governance structures. This is the reasoning for why they instead use violent threats to take over the aid, which lowers civilian support and loyalty (739).

Disasters & Humanitarian Aid

The term “humanitarian gift” was touched on lightly toward the beginning of this research article and here it will be analyzed closely, specifically comparing and contrasting how the term pertains to the devastating tsunami of 2004 off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. Over time researchers have studied disasters through both a sociological and anthropological approaches, briefing on the effects of long-term and short-term unequal exchange.

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Currently, the accounts from the world-system effects, need to be taken and studied how their impacts alter social change. Historically, the ideologies of colonialism, racism and imperialism must be used to understand in tandem the impacts of the past, those seen today, and what the future might entail (Swamy 357). Throughout the duration of these studies it is interesting to see how easy controversy can become apparent. The quote below is a quality depiction of this.

“In studies of disasters a shift away from treating disasters as singular events has accompanied a push towards more critical analyses that shed light on the ways in which vulnerabilities of populations are produced, and mobilized in specific ways following a disaster” (Johnson 2011).

A focus idea in disaster studies that came of the same article in which this quote was seen, expresses the idea of an “event-centric” focus. “Disasters should be viewed as episodic, foreable manifestations of the broader forces that shape societies” (Tierney 2007:509). The idea of an “event-centric” focus was exemplified unanimously in the 2004 tsunami. The relations among humanitarian aid and unequal exchange posed negative effects in the reconstruction process in India’s Tamil Nadu state, specifically toward their artisanal fishing community (Swamy 353).

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In terms of development and demolition, the Keechankuppam bridge was constructed in the 1950s, neighboring the Nagapattinam port by state authorities. The bridge was needed for local fishing communities who were counting on the potential benefits and improvements it could bring. The problems of “endemic rural distress, poverty and food insecurity” would be soon be solved through the new bridge (360). People of Keechankuppam, Akkaraipetti and Kallar saw the bridge as a “symbol of a lost era” due to its capability of connecting fishers to town markets, schools, hospitals and government services (360). In addition, the bridge signified how reactive the state was toward the community after they expressed their demand for economic needs. Between 1950 and 1990 commercial fishing as an economic development skyrocketed with the birth of mechanized boats. The popularity of this commercial trade caused a large demand of transport efficiency, which for local fishermen, this disappointedly meant a larger focus on facilities located further south (360). The destruction to the bridge caused by the tsunami kicked open the

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gates of modernization in full force, unfortunately the local fisherman were not strong enough to keep the floodgates closed. The construction of the newer and larger bridge was swiftly put into action upstream while the old bridge was replaced by a Bank-funded fishing harbor (360). What about the fishing communities? What were they to do now? The bridge was destroyed, and the craft they had been practicing for generations to support themselves and their families was now a foreign concept. Here is where the term “humanitarian gift” becomes present (no pun intended). As mentioned in the introduction to this research article, a humanitarian gift is a form of aid given to a recipient from a donor. This typically occurs during instances of post-disaster reconstruction, helping those severely affected by the tragedy. Many argue how acts of humanitarianism can at times be shielded behind the act of “gift” giving. While secondary motives are present to facilitate the state plans to rebuild a devastated region by relocating its inhabitants and opening land for investment. This “gift” ideal is useful in comparing or contrasting the relationship between humanitarianism and unequal exchange, because it can have both beneficial and adverse effects on the recipients.  Those who study this term:

“…remind us that an object treated as a gift carries its own values that have to do with the social practice of giving and receiving gifts. A gift, for instance, carries with it the obligation to return a gift–and as Bourdieu (2010:5) reminds us, gift exchange involves a time lag between the original giving, and the return, it and it also requires the selection of an object that is distinct from, in terms, of objective qualities and embodied values than the original gift. Gift exchange is thus also about renewing social relations, including those that are founded on disparities of power, as for instance gift exchange between landlords and peasants” (Swamy 358).

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What is important for the reader to take from this quote is how “embodied values” pertain to the original gift.  The first problem that presents itself after the gift is given is this, “what is the obligation imposed on recipients as a result of receiving the gift of housing?” (358). In this specific example the humanitarian gift given to the fishing community by an NGO were housing projects. The obligation of the recipient was to follow the decisions of the state on how they could use or interact with the gift. Those being the location of the housing (which was further inland away from the fishing business), the overall quality of the housing, and “the formal abandonment of all claims to the coastal homes and lands” (359).  In conclusion if the state had reconstructed the old fishing bridge helping the fishermen recover then they might not have been left out of sorts and continue with their traditional way of life. Instead the state forced the communities to accept the housing located inland, by revoking their access to trade markets and services such as health care and education (361).

Does Humanitarian Aid Help or Hurt? When Does Aid Become Selfish Vs Selfless?

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In the article Ethical Challenges in Humanitarian Assistance by Kveta Princova, she writes;



“If we accept that our own interests cannot be more important than those of someone else just because these are his/her interests, then deciding on better alternatives cannot be influenced by our own interest more than by the interest of anyone else” (Princova 44).

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It is the contents of this quote of which should be used as a model for the act of giving humanitarian aid or assistance. The initial thought of giving aid should habitually be accompanied with a genuine sense of morality and dignity. In many instances donors will come to a crossroad in the giving process, where the pending issue of human rights forces them to decide whether the ethical

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dilemma will be ignored or causes a hold on the aid assistance.“At the level of the suffering, the conscious perception of people (recipients of assistance) with respect to their human rights is of the greatest importance for the ethics of assistance” (45).  In order to truly determine if foreign aid is selfish or selfless one must decide by the morals of the specific donor. Each person who decides to partake in humanitarian work is different, resulting in a different purpose of which they decided to start this work. It is important to not ask whether aid is selfish, but to ask when it is selfish (Heinrich 422). In order to know a donor/aid worker’s true intentions one can keep these few questions in mind. “Why is foreign aid given? Is its allocation driven by donor interests, and does it merely act as a bribe? Or is it determined by donor’s selflessness, concerns for global justice, and recipient needs?” (422). Keeping these questions in mind are key in determining one’s intentions but can in addition be used as guidelines to steer clear of blurring the lines of selfish vs selfless aid.

Click here to view work cited


Interested in planning a trip of your own? Check out my applied project:

Changing the World Though Service: A Step by Step Guide

The Humanitarian Gift

Through my personal learning network, I have been surprisingly successful in finding resources to strengthen my senior capstone project. A journal article in particular that had me hooked was Humanitarianism and Unequal Exchange by Raja Swamy. Through this article I explored the relationship between humanitarian aid and ecologically unequal exchange while a country is experiencing post-disaster reconstruction. The article was dense and lengthy, but what stuck out most to me of this and all the articles I’ve analyzed thus far is the term:

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humanitarian “gift”.  The example used for this “gift” in particular was the devastating tsunami of 2004 in India’s Nadu state. Houses were given as “gifts”. Sounds absolutely wonderful right? There always has to be a catch! In return of the houses, recipients were expected to hand over any and all claims of the coast to the donor. On one hand the “gift” helped lower political conflicts of the fisherman who are in a constant battle over land and resources, but on the other hand an immediate problem can arise. If a humanitarian organization provides a gift of a house, what is the obligation imposed on recipients as a result of receiving the gift of housing? Yes, it was nice that the fisherman were offered refuge inland, but that meant they were no longer able to partake in their livelihood by the coast. This all touches back to one of my core questions through out my research this semester, is foreign aid given selfishly or selflessly? In reality the state officials could have fixed the bridge for the local fishermen but instead they pushed to have a large and “modern” bridge and fishing harbor in its place. The “gift” of the houses was for the locals who were now forced to move inland and start a new life.  This makes me think of an example my professor told me when I first started the research for this project. There are times when people go to McDonalds and as they are paying the cashier may ask if they would like to make a donation, leading with “would you like the donation to be anonymous or would you like to write your name on this paper for our donation wall?” This provokes an interesting question, is the customer only making a donation because their name will be out for others to see? If the only option was to make an anonymous donation, would they?


Women Leaders in Global Health

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Well… I have fallen in love, with a website that is. This website has everything I’ve wanted and regards to Global Health of course! Not only does this website hold promising qualities of job opportunities but has a strong support system where I can reach them at any point in time whenever I need them! All jokes aside I am so excited to have found Women in Global Health’s website. What makes this even better is through my PLN a fellow IDS student even sent me their twitter account saying she thought of me and that’d I would most definitely be interested in exploring! Moments such as there are what remind why I love being an Interdisciplinary Studies Major, every student works to not only motivate themselves, but their classmates too!

While exploring the Women in Global Health website I came across a multitude of resources and information that can be easily accessed. Ranging from their approaches, recent/past initiatives, all of their social media accounts, resources and how a person can become involved. Something else I fo

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und interesting was their blog page. It includes archives dating back to 2016 and a sidebar that allows you to search by category! This is helpful for me because if I need to know something about the World Health Organization or the Center for Disease Control I can find article related to them through their website!


I was excited to sign up for the Women in Global Health newsletter but also sent in an inquiry to learn more about regional chapters for Women’s Global Health

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near me! I am excited to now hold another great resource to put toward my personal learning and capstone project.


Fall 2017 Saul O Sidore Lecture Series

Monday evening I attended the last lecture of the Fall 2017 Saul O Sidore Lecture Series here at Plymouth State University. In 1979 the Sidore Lecture Series was established by PSU and the Sidore Memorial Foundation after his work with humanitarianism. This years brochure writes “the series brings a wide variety of speakers to campus to address critical issues and events in politics, society, and culture, topics that reflect Sidore’s interests”.

For those interested in attending a lecture in the future:

All Sidore lectures are free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended. A reception follows each lecture. Lectures are presented in the Smith Recital Hall in the Silver Center for the Arts, unless otherwise noted. For more info feel free to contact the Silver Center directly.

Advocating For Kids

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I had the pleasure to listen to Irwin Redlener speak about the challenges children face trying to access health care. Redlener is the co-founder of the Children’s Health Fund, which was created to develop health care programs across the nation. This initiative was created to target 25 of the most medically deprived communities, both rural and urban. In addition, he is the founder and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. The center focuses on the vulnerability of children during and after large-scale disasters. I was sitting at the edge of my seat I listened to him speak, for the first time since creating my Global Health major I was listening to someone speak who was doing exactly what I hope for with my future. Through this experience I was able to get his email and the title of his latest book, The Future of Us: What the Dreams of Children Mean for 21st Century America. The book pinpoints ” inadequate education, barriers to health care, and crushing poverty make it overwhelmingly difficult for many children to realize their dreams”.



Menstruation is No Joke. Period.

As I was scrolling though my daily Twitter feed I came across a photo posted by Voices of Youth’s twitter account. Needless to say it was one of those moments where I sat and thought of how fortunate I am to have the life I do.

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Each day we take the luxuries of our every day lives for granted whether we realize this or not. Clean water, electricity, Wi-fi, free education and yes, tampons are only some of the many luxuries we are lucky to have. It’s twitter posts like the one above that us women (sorry fellas) do not think twice about each month. Hearing or seeing information about health problems such as lack of accessibility  to feminine products is what only furthers my desire to find ways to improve health policy, whether it be local or global.

As a child our parents might have repromanded us and told us to go to our room or sit in the common area till we understood what we did was wrong. Now take a moment, and think about being forced into one of those rooms because of something entirely out of your own control? As women, we cannot fight mother nature, we cannot decide when she will make her monthly appearance and we certainly can’t ignore her. Women in Nigeria each month must stay home during the duration of their menstruation, some might be forced away from the public eye and kept in secret rooms. Why can I live my life normally each month? Why can I go to school and soccer practice each day while other women suffer? I have found it to be a hard pill to swallow when you realize you cannot help someone in the blink of an eye, when you can’t help someone over the span of year. Improvement takes time. Improving health policies based on non-governmental and governmental funding can be key in helping women live a normal life each month, it can help these women realize there isn’t shame in things out of their control. As I thought about this topic I couldn’t help but think back to my research article topic: Who Are We to Help People?, I can’t help but think what if these women don’t want funding, what if this is apart of their cultural beliefs? Who am I to tell them they shouldn’t stay in a room and out of public while they menstruate? It’s as easy as reading a simple tweet that you might forget how much another culture may differ from your own.

Everyone wants to change the world…but what does that even mean?

Who Are We to Help People?

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It is common to hear people say they want to change the world, to improve the lives of the poor or even impact the lives of those who are in dire need. These phrases are constantly thrown around with significant meaning or little to none. The question that never seems to surface often is do the people want your help?


When I began high school I decided I wanted to become a nurse one day. The obvious “why” or “for what reason” has always been a reoccurring question in my life. What has changed over time is my

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outlook. I always replied “I want to help people” or “I want to make a difference in someone’s life”. Never did I respond “the idea of sticking someone with a needle or taking vital signs has me sold”.


When I visited El Salvador for the first time, my hopes to help people changed me. I realized I wanted people to experience the same opportunities that I was fortunate to have in the United States. Not everyone is able to have an education, clean water and access to medicine.  I did not choose to be born in the United States with a multitude of opportunities, it was a matter of luck. As my first two years in nursing school came to an unfortunate close I began to doubt myself. I was so stubborn, I believed the only way I could help people in life was through nursing, nothing else. Having thoughts of my friends in El Salvador I realized I was being selfish not taking advantage of the opportunity right in front of me, my education. As I changed my career pathway to Global Health I still kept the idea in my head “I want to help people”. I even wrote in my IDS essay “The main goal of a global health professional is to work to implement programs that protect the health of individuals, families and communities in the United States and abroad, while simultaneously educating communities”. I never once thought if someone actually wanted my help, or was against me helping them. This harsh reality smacked into me the first time in fours years about a month ago. I was studying abroad and my roommate at the time said to me, “I hate missionaries and how they go into other countries trying to change the communities regardless of their culture and beliefs. You see people

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posting pictures with poor little children then when they come back to the U.S are complaining how the wifi only works in the downstairs area of their home and not the whole house.  In that moment I sat in a complete silence which felt like an eternity. I was re evaluating my every thought towards my past goals and beliefs. I never once questioned if someone wanted me to help them. How could someone not want help? I was in utter shock. I of course argued with her about my organization and the debate cordially went back and forth over the month we spent together but two things occurred to me. I respected her immensely for having a different opinion, and I would never think the same outlook on helping people as I did before.


The purpose of my research article is to challenge yourself, challenge your passions, even if you do not believe in something guide yourself to understand why someone else does. This research article will depict the controversies of mission/service work around the world. I will dig deep into the perspectives of those who are against being helped. This is key to my future in the Global Health field because I will interact with those who don’t actually want my help or want to listen to my thoughts on opportunity and improvement. Rather than take offense it important I realize the presence of cultural diversity, and learn other ways to approach someone with alternate beliefs. In conclusion, I am excited to challenge my own personal ideals, beliefs and life goals by furthering my knowledge through the perspective’s of others.


Each Thursday of the week in tandem with my applied project I will be putting aside an hour minimum for the research article. In addition I will put an hour of research every Tuesday.

10/23: Final outline of all topics to be included in RA

10/21: Rough draft of RA due

10/21-11/6: Visit the writing center

*Before due date return to the writing center with final corrections

12/12: DUE DATE

Changing the World Though Service: A Step by Step Guide

Hey remember when I mentioned the part where people are always looking to change the world? Have no fear my step by step guide is here! Through out my experience doing service trips people who are interested in my work tend to say “I want to do something like that!” or “I wish I had time, maybe I will search for another program when I’m done school”. I used to say the exact same things before my service trips abroad, now looking back I can’t imagine not seizing the opportunity! Prior to this summer I was simply a volunteer who followed instructions from group leaders and filled out paper work as it was given. When I was told I’d be working at the school one day and the Health Clinic another thats where I’d be. I was a volunteer on a trip planned by someone else which was wonderful but I grew eager to test my own skills and ideas. It wasn’t until I became a board

member for Epilogos Charities Inc. that I decided to plan a trip. Myself and another board member who met 5 years ago are the youngest of the board members. As 21 year olds in a room of  members who are 50 or older it can be easy to feel out of place. But we are the future, with out young members who are eager to gain experience it is difficult to keep the organization successfully up and running for years to come. So what was the best way to improve our understanding of how to run a successful organization?Plan a trip of our own! It was an experience to say the least, and made me realize how much work is put into a service trip before the actual service trip begins. The goal of this applied project will be to teach people how to plan, prepare and execute a service trip on their own through my personal experience. I will touch base on all aspects whether it be fundraising, flight fees, or in the event you accidentally drink local water what tips to follow when feeling crappy (haha no pun intended). This can all be accessed on my ePort page Changing the World Through Service: A Step by Step Guide. The site will be interactive with personal stories, video tutorials, logistic FAQ,  links to cheap airfare and more!


Each week I have set aside meeting times with IDS Program Support Administrator Janina Misiewicz to work on my webpage and create alternate links

-10/12: First meeting with Janina to start building Webpage

-10/19: Meet with Janina

-10/2: Have rough draft of  all components of webpage planned out before meeting with Janina

-Have weekly meetings with Janina as needed until 10/30. Begin sharpening and fine tuning the due date is coming!!

-12/12 due date