Global health fundraiser stimulates appetites and awareness

Twelfth annual Rich Man, Poor Man fundraiser a success.

Amy Hewko - 09 April 2014

Eat, drink and be merry-words the attendees of the 2014 Rich Man, Poor Man global health fundraiser event took to heart. More than 180 people attended the event April 5, which raised approximately $8,000 for the Students' International Health Association (SIHA). SIHA is a student-led organization that supports global health educational opportunities and multidisciplinary and community-centred approach to global health issues.

"Global health experiences are incredibly valuable for the education of our future leaders in health and are a worthwhile endeavour to support for both Canadians and the global community," said Alanna Chomyn, president of SIHA and second-year medical student. "My world view has changed completely through my experiences in global health and these educational opportunities have shaped my ideas about what I hope to achieve my future career in Canada with our underserved populations and abroad."

The Rich Man, Poor Man fundraiser puts a unique spin on the classic fundraiser dinner. Eight to 10 guests are seated to a table and one, selected at random, enjoys a generous serving of meat with several side dishes, while the others enjoy vegetarian curry and rice dishes. The menu reflects that 90 per cent of the world's population typically eats vegetarian meals as meat is considered a luxury item in many countries.

Before guests settle in to dinner, there is also a silent auction featuring items donated by organizations and individuals throughout Edmonton. This year's event offered everything from bath sets and gift cards to art from a local artist and sculptures from Zimbabwe, Ecuador and Tanzania.

"It's kind of neat. It's an exchange of people's travels. People donate from their own experiences and other people get to take them home with them," Kiera Prasad, fundraising co-ordinator of SIHA and third-year science student.

Rich Man, Poor Man supports SIHA's health projects, including their work in Tanzania over the last 12 years. Students join local communities for 10 weeks each summer and work directly with the residents to map the available resources, assess community health needs and establish how those needs are already being challenged.

SIHA students have been working with the Kikongo community and government for the last two years to establish an emergency transportation vehicle. A few weeks ago, Chomyn was thrilled to hear that the vehicle was fully operational.

"The local clinical officer told us that that the vehicle… had just transported an obstructed delivery to a nearby larger health centre. We were informed that the woman arrived safely and delivered a healthy baby," she said. "It was wonderful to see how the joint effort between University of Alberta students and the Kikongo community made a difference in the lives of these individuals."

This is the fourth year that Chomyn has worked with the Rich Man, Poor Man event. Previous fundraisers have allowed SIHA members to work in Tanzania to improve access to health care facilities, including an emergency transportation vehicle developed through partnership with the Kikongo community and government.

Esteemed guests at this year's event include Dave Hancock, acting premier of Alberta; Kue Young, dean of the School of Public Health; and Fraser Brenneis, vice-dean of education within the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. Michael Frishkopf, associate director of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology and professor in the Department of Medicine, was this year's keynote speaker.

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