Changemakers

By Lisa Stiffler, Humanosphere correspondent

In wealthy countries, it’s no problem for an organization to provide a single, narrowly defined service. In a poor community, it won’t always work to focus on singular goal, ignoring the existing challenges that can doom even the most well-intentioned projects.

Enter Erin Larsen-Cooper, a recent graduate of the University of Washington. She's hopeful that programs that are more holistic, that work with existing health programs and employ members of the community that they’re aiming to help, will get us closer to solving some of the problems in global health and poverty.

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By Cyan James, Humanosphere correspondent

A fresh crop of Changemakers has been identified by the Washington Global Health Alliance’s Be the Change student competition. Among the three first place winners was a group of UW students who want to enlist a spider to fight malaria ...

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Tom Paulson / KPLU

Earlier this week, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the latest 100 winners of $100,000 grants from its Grand Challenges Exploration program aimed at supporting high-risk, creative approaches to improving health and fighting poverty in poor countries.

Celebrated for funding “wild” and “wacky” ideas, this year’s batch of Gates Grand Challenge winners included proposals to develop, as the AP reported, unmanned drones to deliver vaccines, tattoos for monitoring pregnancy and a “tuberculosis breathalyzer.”

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By Lisa Stiffler, Humanosphere correspondent

Kimberly Choi wound up testing malaria vaccines on mice quite by accident.

“I thought I was going to study Spanish literature,” Choi recalled.

But in 2006, Choi was encouraged by a high school biology teacher to participate in Seattle BioMed’s outreach program, BioQuest, which gives students a chance to do hands-on research.

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By Lisa Stiffler, Humanosphere correspondent

Ines Tucakovic was only a child when she and her family fled the war in their native Bosnia. But her job at Seattle’s Infectious Disease Research Institute has a connection to home.

As part of the research team in the institute’s clinical immunology lab, Tucakovic prepares protocols for clinical trials being conducted internationally. The trials are for vaccines for tuberculosis and a parasite called leishmaniasis. Tucakovic also processes the samples taken from patients in Venezuela, Peru, India, Columbia and Sudan.

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By Lisa Stiffler, Humanosphere correspondent

Can Dean Chahim save the world?

Not alone, he can’t. But if he can inspire and educate enough people in “critical consciousness” – an awareness of the policies and practices that create injustices and an understanding of how we can change them for the better – that might just do it.

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Overlake School

By Claudia Rowe, Humanosphere correspondent

In a lesson showing just how far one unlikely idea can travel, 18 upper affluent kids from suburban Seattle are this weekend en route to Cambodia, where they will teach science, art and English to some of the poorest children on Earth.

Foreign aid is a messy business, often stymied by inefficiency and corruption. But students from the Overlake School in Redmond wave off such concerns – not to mention parental worries about residual landmines and mandatory inoculations.

They believe their two-week trip to the village of Pailin will benefit them as much as their young pupils.

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“Changemakers” is a new series on Humanosphere exploring how young people, connected and globally aware, are working to change the world.

By Lisa Stiffler, special correspondent

Katie Leach-Kemon arrived in Niger as a newly minted college grad, eager to help in her role as a community health agent with the Peace Corps. She teamed up with health workers who were identifying acutely malnourished children, and then assisting their mothers to better feed their kids. It was culturally sensitive stuff.

“I was straight out of college,” she said, “and I had a lot to learn.”

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By Lisa Stiffler, special correspondent

Global health and development is by definition bound to be overpowering. So Noah Derman has a strategy for not feeling crushed by the enormous scope of the field’s challenges – he mentally breaks them into smaller chunks.

“If you look at smaller battles that you win,” said Derman, “you won’t get so overwhelmed.”

For Derman, development director for Development in Gardening, or DIG, those battles are won one vegetable patch at a time.

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It’s been a battle to get drug manufacturers to make medicines needed by people in developing countries, drugs to treat diseases expunged from wealthy nations. But what happens when the drugs finally reach these populations – do they work? Are they being used safely? Are there nasty side effects?

Becky Bartlein is trying to answer these questions as part of the newly formed Global Medicines Program at the University of Washington.

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This is the first installment of a new series on KPLU's Humanosphere:  “Changemakers” explores how young people, connected and globally aware, are working to change the world.

For Matthew T. Schneider, the struggle to ease the suffering of people afflicted by HIV/AIDS or sickened by malaria is something of a numbers game. Schneider, who since October has worked at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., is sifting mountains of data to understand how to best help sick, impoverished people in developing nations.

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