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Occupational Justice: Local Approaches to Global Problems

Project Overview

A holistic approach to health in order to empower victims of torture to participate in daily occupations.

Identifying the Problem

Because of the time commitment and financial costs associated with international volunteer work, many medical students and professionals are unable to travel overseas to provide health care to those who need it most. But even for those who are able to volunteer, they are not always able to stay for an extended period of time.

After having volunteered abroad and worked with various international organizations, Noa became more and more familiar with the negative consequences of "service tourism." “I knew of so many students excited to go abroad and provide medical care—or simply lend a helping       hand—only to come back and leave behind those they had been assisting and who were now deprived of the services they had come to depend upon,” she says. The revolving door created by service tourism makes it especially difficult for patients to develop meaningful relationships with their health care providers, and the departure of the medical volunteer can even spell the end of the patient’s treatment.

Creating A Solution

Noa’s fascination with occupational therapy and its creative and holistic approach to human health gave her an idea: in Los Angeles, a city with so many international communities, she could create a program through which much-needed health services could tackle global problems from a local level.

“Occupational Justice: Local Approaches to Global Problems” is committed to bringing occupational justice to victims of armed conflict or disaster, beginning with the non-profit organization The Program for Torture Victims. In order to make this possible, Noa is working to establish a clinical residency within the Occupational Therapy program at the University of Southern California, in which students will work with clients to remedy a particular issue that is preventing the clients from comfortably working in an occupational field.

“This commitment presents an invaluable opportunity for students to work with members from various international communities,” says Noa. “They will learn of the specific needs of torture victims and will be able to provide an extremely important healing service free of charge to those who seek it.” At its outset, the project will work primarily with clients from the Program for Torture Victims. Thereafter, Noa hopes to expand the program and establish more fieldwork options within the University of South California’s Occupational Therapy program in order to serve various victims of armed conflict and disaster.

Lessons Learned

For anyone who would like to implement a similar project in their own community, Noa has the following advice: “Network, network, and network some more. If someone believes that your idea is too far-fetched, keep emailing, keep making those phone calls, and find someone who is just as excited as you are!” In order to get her project off the ground, Noa had to constantly communicate with the people she wanted involved with the project and convince them that she was serious about what she wanted to do as well as why it was such a great idea.


Because this project required Noa to carry out heavy research and invest her time in building connections with people, instead of requiring monetary expenses, she did not have to raise any money in order to start her project. However, if the Program for Torture Victims and the University of South California's Occupational Therapy program decide that they would like to provide stipends to the students involved in Noa's project, Noa will then have to decide how to raise the money.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

France France 2011

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