Mar 23, 2018

Reflecting on the 2018 GROW Institute

by David Guirgis

On a Sunday afternoon, a large convergence of students gathered in a sunlit hall, exchanged phone numbers over lunch, and talked excitedly about their summer plans. These students were at the conclusion of GlobeMed’s 7th annual GROW Institute, held February 17-18 in Chicago, IL. GROW Institute is a weekend pre-departure training event for participants in this summer’s GROW internship experience, in which students travel to their GlobeMed chapter’s partner organization and work with them in-country on a mutually agreed project. Thus, GROW Institute was established in conjunction with this program to foster conversations on cultural competence and humility; this year, these conversations were held through the lens of storytelling.

Even that Sunday, after the closing session of GROW Institute, students centered their conversations and solidified the relationships they fostered over the course of the weekend by analyzing the change they were planning to affect over the summer and, most importantly, the relationship between impact and intent. What did they want to do, and how did their short-term presence in a new space affect their plans to maximize their impact?

 “I’ve been reflecting a lot about cultural competency. I realized last year when I did GROW that people [in-country] may have their own biases and preconceptions about us, and we both learned a lot from each other.” Alina Li, GROW intern from GlobeMed at Emory University

During a small-group session held to discuss and expand upon the ideas presented in Sisonke Msimang’s landmark TED Talk “When a story moves you, act on it,” GROW teams the impact of their partnerships in shaping their plans for the summer, and their desire to affect change in these communities. Stories – which led GlobeMed at Washington University in St. Louis member Joy Korley to realize “the beauty in partnership before I ever knew about what GlobeMed was”—were vital to the ideas of cultural exchange, and the power of learning multiple stories from a wide range of perspectives in order to maximize a collective movement for action.

After all, these stories affect both students and the communities they plan on serving. When asked about a major takeaway from GROW Institute, students highlighted this idea: “I think a major takeaway [from GROW] would be to keep an open mind, in that I don’t come in [to my host country, Thailand] with preconceived notions,” says Christina Hughley, from GlobeMed at Emory University. “I want to go and not have the savior complex, because I can learn a lot from the community the same way they can learn from me.”

In essence, these varying perspectives are vital for learning and growth across borders, and across multiple groups of people with the same call to action. The circumstances with which community leaders and GlobeMed students affect change are different, but the overarching goal is the same.

One way or another, the stories that shape us – our backgrounds, the people we encounter, injustices wrought against us, and our own prejudices – shape our own goal. And this goal is justice across the lines of health as a human right.  

GlobeMed’s Partnerships team with GROW interns from GlobeMed at the University of Rwanda Kigali, who attended GROW Institute for the first time ever!

Thank you to USAID’s Global Health Fellows Program II (GHFP-II) for their incredibly generous support of GROW and GROW Institute for over seven years.

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