Elnaz is a fourth year majoring in Global Studies and minoring in Public Affairs and Near Eastern Languages & Cultures. She is currently the GROW coordinator and has been doing an amazing job informing the rest of the chapter about our future plans with Mpoma Community HIV/AIDS Initiative this summer. Keep reading to learn about her experience during the GROW Institute!
Last weekend, I had the amazing opportunity to fly out to Chicago alongside Geoff, Meagan, Urmila, and Alexaya -AKA my amazing GROW team- and together we embarked on the first step of our GROW Experience: GROW Institute! Although we left our LA sunshine and were welcomed by freezing weather in Chicago, we were all still very excited to be surrounded by so many other GlobeMedders who are just as passionate about health equity and partnership as we are!
We arrived at GROW Institute with a a list of questions we had been asking each other for the past 2 months. What would our partnership be like? How successful will our WASH Project be? None of us knew what to expect, but we were quickly comforted by the fact that all the other interns were just as overwhelmed as we were.
Thankfully, we were able to eat dinner with Alexis, a Global Health Corps Fellow, who happened to work with our partner, the Mpoma Community HIV/AIDS Initiative! She was extremely helpful and answered all of our questions about our partnership, the community, and even what to pack (fun fact: leggings are now illegal in Uganda… say whaaaat?!) But most importantly, she shared stories about the individuals from our partner. We were able to learn about their personalities and quirks and despite the fact that we have never met any of these people in person, we instantly felt a deeper connection with our partner. The reality that we would be meeting them in exactly 4 months finally sunk in for us!
The most valuable information I learned from GROW Institute was a statement from our guest speaker Jody Kretzman, a professor at Northwestern University. He advised us to always look at the glass as being half full instead of half empty, meaning that we need to focus on what each partner community has to offer and build our partnership off of that. That said, we are not the solution, but rather a small contribution to the positive impacts of each community. Partnership is based on trust, a mutual understanding for each other, respect, and an equal effort to make a positive difference. By embracing each other’s gifts, we can achieve success in the future of health equity.
It was so inspirational to see so many passionate students sharing ideas, beliefs, laughs, and memories at GROW Institute. After last weekend, I can safely say that I feel confident enough to face any surprise or obstacle that will arise on my journey. Lastly, I just wanted to say that I LOVE MY GROW TEAM! We were very fortunate to have all our whole team attend GROW Institute and it was a wonderful prelude to our 6 week journey in Uganda. Our three day adventure in Chicago was filled with laughter, bonding, and learning and I cannot wait to continue it this summer. ❤