This is my second year going on the GROW trip. Last year I was just an intern, but this year I’m the coordinator. Not much seems to have changed in our corner of the neighborhood: we visit the same coffee shops, eat at the same dinner places, and stay at the same hotel. The baristas, restaurateurs, and managers recognize me and welcome me back like I was here yesterday. Chiang Mai is comforting in that way. But when we step into MAP Foundation’s office, we find ourselves playing a completely different role in our partnership. Their staff has changed, their needs have changed, their migrant communities have changed. It’s an important juxtaposition, but it is difficult to see without having been on more than one GROW trip.
Although this city may have seemingly remained the same, the geopolitics and laws affecting the migrant community are volatile, constantly changing, thus causing constant upheaval. Migrants are exempt from Chiang Mai’s safe, secure stability. Last year, migrants had access to social security benefits, but this year, they may not. While the rug gets pulled out from under the feet of the migrant community in Thailand, MAP Foundation struggles to keep up. As hostility ends in some states in Myanmar, certain migrant communities rush back home, shifting the immediate focus of our partner from, say, maintaining migrants’ stable access to health care in Thailand to ensuring their safe passage out of Thailand. Keeping up with changes like these is crucial for our chapter to maintain an effective partnership. Without GROW, no matter how much we attempt to keep up with our partner over Skype, GlobeMed at Emory would have little to no grasp on the rapidly changing reality of the migrant community we serve.
In fact, without GROW, our chapter would never have come to learn that we are the only funders currently supporting the only program our partner has available to deal with migrant health crises. We arrived at the internship at the beginning of the summer ready to re-evaluate our partnership, thinking that we were no longer necessary, only to find out that MAP’s bridge between isolated migrant communities and accessible health care is buttressed solely by the efforts of thirty students at Emory University. This was a rude awakening, but a necessary one, and would never have come up in conversation had we not started the conversation ourselves. GROW is a deliberate space and time for these conversations to happen—which inevitably lead to change, for the better.
In the same way that college students visit home every year to keep up relationships with family and friends, GROW is necessary to keep up with our partner family abroad. As relationships change and “grow” (pardon the pun), as does our partnership and the new perspectives we bring back to GlobeMed at Emory. With newly strengthened relationships and a re-evaluated partnership after GROW, our chapter can advocate and fundraise with renewed purpose and vigor during the academic year. Knowing that the survival of MAP’s Crisis Support program depends entirely on the shoulders of GlobeMed at Emory and having deliberately immersed ourselves into the migrant community has completely revived our partnership over the course of the last five weeks. Change has never felt better.