Dean Chahim


UW student activist calls on Millennials to be less dreamy, more political | 

Dean Chahim is a student of Civil & Environmental Engineering and International Development & Social Change at the University of Washington. Chahim co-founded and facilitates the Critical Development Forum, which is having one of its informal forums later today on the issue of climate change.

This is a guest post and the views expressed here are Chahim’s, in case you needed to be told that.


Dean Chahim

A UW student at an Occupy Seattle event asks for less hope, more action

There is the social and political movement of Occupy Wall Street. The Arab Spring. And then there is Seattle’s exploding ‘humanitarian’ community. These are all driven, in part or maybe largely, by the younger generation’s desire for change – for a better world.

At the University of Washington, it’s impossible to miss what’s happening. The youth movement for change operates under many banners and goes by many names: development, humanitarian, philanthropic, global health, global service, social entrepreneurship. Here on Humanosphere, this has been described as a key feature of my “Millennial” generation.

New student-run NGOs seem to start here every week. Information sessions pack in students by the dozen. Flyers litter campus for the latest two-week trip to empower African villagers, help with sustainable projects, and oh yes, see a few waterfalls. They seek to work miracles, changing communities forever “in just five days.”

In between volunteer trips, they might send shoes to the Dominican Republic or bras to Nigeria. Yes, bras. Gently used bras.

There is no denying that some of the work they do has real benefits in the short-term for the poor and marginalized globally. But I would argue that many of these well-intentioned efforts don’t have much impact – and that they distract from the most powerful means to fight poverty and inequity, disease and suffering.


I’m concerned that the way we frame our discussion around these efforts is actually stunting my generation’s view of social change. We dream of helping “one village at a time” through service overseas when, arguably, we could help many millions more through political activism here at home. Continue reading

The UW’s first full year of its global health minor starts … now! | 

Speaking of Millennials, those young people in their 20s and early 30s we in the media have (annoyingly?) labeled as such, here’s more evidence that this generation is intensely interested in doing some serious global good.

The University of Washington’s Global Health Department’s new undergraduate program.

Started last January, mid-school year, the global health minor was launched largely due to undergraduate students’ desire (here’s a story featuring one of the ring-leaders, Sarah Dawson) to get going now rather than wait to work on global health issues as graduate student in public health, medicine or some such.

This week marks the start of the first full year of the UW’s global health minor.

Tom Paulson

UW students wandering around looking for direction at start of 2011 school year

While hordes of students wandered around campus looking for direction, or for those free granola bars from some church organization I’d never heard of, others were hunkered down playing a game of global health and development trivia.

“What percentage of our GDP, our gross domestic product, is spent on overseas development?” asked UW civil engineering student Dean Chahim, one of the organizers of the event. Continue reading