Convocation 2014’s global citizens: Meet Gabilan Sivapatham
The slogan “Think globally, act locally” could have been coined especially for Gabilan Sivapatham. Born and raised in Toronto’s St. James Town neighbourhood, Sivapatham is applying what he learned in the Life Sciences’ global health option to helping his own community.
Sivapatham has been active in St. James Town since Grade 10. He was one of the founding members of the St. James Town Youth Council, where he helped establish an annual talent show, a community awards program, and grew advocacy for the revitalization of a local tennis court. He received a Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award this year for his efforts. As part of the global health option in the life sciences program, he has travelled to Hong Kong — where he studied herbal medicine and non-toxic cancer treatment — and Sri Lanka, where he shadowed a local doctor.
His experiences both in the life sciences program and as a community activist have taught him that the solutions for a community have to come from within.
“Development dialogue used to assume that one size fits all. But something that we’ve encountered over and over in the global health option is that that definitely doesn’t work. In my case, this was very clear in the St. James Town community, one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in the country.”
Sivapatham isn’t interested in what he calls “voluntourism” — “this concept of students in the Global North visiting poor communities, spending a few days building schools or dispensing aid and taking part in projects that really don’t focus on sustainable change. “We need to revisit and redefine the idea that we in the Global North can save the world when, in fact, we should probably do a bit more research into where we’re going, why we’re going and what kind of impact we’re going to have. Instead, we can start by looking in our own backyards, consider how our livelihoods are affecting others in the Global South, and additionally tackle development issues here as well.”
Currently studying for his MCATs, Sivapatham hopes to be accepted into medical school. His ultimate interest is in public health policy development and systems development, but is eager to take whatever opportunities arise.
- Five to watch: Convocation 2014’s global citizens
U of T News | June 9, 2014