Intro: At this point in time, our GROW team has been on the ground in Mae Sot for a week and a half, and we are exactly halfway through the time that we will spend with our partner, Social Action for Women. Each of us came into the GROW trip with different reasons for being here, different goals, and different strengths to contribute to the work that we’re doing with SAW. Below are introductions written individually by each of us, describing our personal background, our reasons for being here, and our biggest goals for the trip.
Dylan Sexton: I am an upcoming senior at the University of Cincinnati majoring in Neuroscience and Spanish. This past year, I was selected as the GROW Coordinator for our school’s chapter of GlobeMed. I took the responsibility very seriously and selected the rest of the team with care. I knew from the beginning what goals I wanted to accomplish, and I think that we will be able to get all of them taken care of. I know that I want to work, person-to-person, with the staff at our partner organization—Social Action for Women (SAW)—to start a new grant-writing program on our end of the partnership. I know that I want to have our team contribute to SAW physically by teaching English language and GED courses in the schools that SAW helps to support. Finally, I know that I want to form a real relationship with the people of Mae Sot, Thailand and to understand their struggle. For all of that, I am still not sure about many things. I don’t think it would be possible for me to know how this trip will surprise me, but I have faith that it will. I don’t know what things I will learn, what friends I may make, or what cultural intricacies and obstacles I may have to overcome. I expect that this trip will change the way that I look at Thailand, the Burmese peoples, and perhaps at myself. The surprises are what make the experience, and I can only hope that those in store for me are worth the wait. I want to go on the GROW internship for many reasons. First and foremost, I want to contribute to my chapter of GlobeMed’s mission and commitment to SAW. I think that the GROW trip is very important for creating that personal bond of understanding that ties the two sides together, and I look forward to helping to forge that bond anew. I want to help with the actual work as well. I think that meeting with the students that go to the schools SAW runs and supports can only improve how I view the lives of people in the Burmese community. Contributing in whatever small way to that effort is something that I have wanted to do since the first day I joined GlobeMed as an inexperienced college freshman. On a more personal level, I want to immerse myself in the culture and come to a better understanding of some of the diversity in the world. This trip means a lot to me. It is the result of a lot of personal dedication to GlobeMed as an organization, and to the planning of the GROW trip in particular. I truly believe in GlobeMed’s mission of sustainable, grassroots, community empowerment, and hope that this trip can help in some way to deliver on that mission. The organization and leadership that went into organizing this trip has been a real learning experience for me. I had to be responsible for making decisions about length, goals, membership, and organization. For all of that, I think that my team has given even more through their dedication, innovation, and true commitment to making my job easier and making SAW’s goals our goals. With all of this on my side, my biggest expectation for this trip is success.
Juliana Madzia: I’m a rising senior at the University of Cincinnati, studying Neurobiology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I applied to go on GROW this summer because over the past year, GlobeMed has become more ingrained in my life than I ever would have thought possible, and I think that being in Mae Sot, working face to face with ATL and Su and Dr. Htin Zaw and the rest of the SAW staff, is the ultimate way to immerse myself in the real purpose of GlobeMed. As a Co-President last year and again for the upcoming year, my day-to-day work relating to GlobeMed is often overwhelmingly administrative: sending emails, making agendas, conducting e-board meetings. This isn’t always the case, of course, but I did feel as if I was missing out on a lot of the deeper conversations and the personal connections that made me fall in love with GlobeMed in the first place. Working with my GROW team to plan for our trip, and now being here in Mae Sot, I’ve been able to work on building the relationships, digging deep, and having those meaningful conversations without worrying about if the meeting was going to end on time or wondering if I had marked the attendance sheet properly. I’m excited for this to keep happening as we get further into our work with SAW and begin drafting our PAF. Through GROW, I’m rediscovering my purpose as a member of the GlobeMed community, and I hope to remember this feeling as I return to Cincinnati and continue my work for social justice and health equity.
Jayla Burton: This upcoming fall I will be a third-year student, studying Health Science with a concentration in Physical Therapy. I originally wanted to go on the GROW internship because I had witnessed how other individuals who have gone years before came back and held so much knowledge about SAW, Thailand, and Burma. They knew information that couldn’t be taught by a powerpoint slide. They knew the SAW staff and were able to maintain a strong relationship when they came back. I believe that because the previous GROW Teams were able to truly immerse themselves, they were able to connect with our partner on a higher level than anyone else who had simply attended chapter meetings. They all seemed to have this unique perspective that wasn’t possible to have had you not participated in the GROW internship. This was my biggest driving force when applying for the internship: I wanted the knowledge and experience that would help me to connect with the Burmese migrant workers, the women and children in the shelters, the SAW staff, and the peer leaders. I am most excited to use everything that I learn to develop a strong advocacy committee for the upcoming year. Advocating for our partner organization and their needs is something that has always been a struggle. I will use all the information and experiences that I have during the GROW Internship to become a better advocate for change, and use every resource to help our chapter do so as well.
Akshayaa Venkatakrishnan: I’m approaching my final year at UC studying Neuroscience, Psychology, and WGS Studies, and just completed my first year as a member of GlobeMed. The meetings were nothing like any other organizations’ I had witnessed, and were filled to the brim with activities to bring us closer to one another, thoughtful conversations about global health topics, and lessons to celebrate the work of our partner, Social Action for Women (SAW). I applied for the GROW internship because I couldn’t miss the chance to live and breathe the work done by SAW to improve education and wellness for Burmese migrant communities. Being on the ground, it’s been so exciting to see months of planning prove worthwhile, and seeing each team member’s strengths shine. We’ve got an all-star team: Jayla is exceptionally charismatic and can befriend anyone, McKenzie has a knack for breaking down and explaining complicated information, Juliana is gifted at unearthing systemic inequities and finding solutions, Dylan has been thinking three steps ahead for planning and logistics, and I love learning about education and listening to people share their stories. It’s just so cool to see us all mesh together and work to improve our understanding of the people in these communities and carry lessons, data, and experiences back to our chapter so we all can be advocates for peace and social equity.
Mckenzie Ackemyer: This upcoming year I will be a junior at the University of Cincinnati. I am studying International Affairs on the pre-med track and pursuing a certificate in International Human Rights. Since I joined GlobeMed two years ago I have noticed that those who have gone on GROW in the past seem to have a very special and personal connection to the SAW staff and the project we have together. I hope that GROW will help me to find that personal connection to our project and build a strong relationship with the SAW staff. I believe that these connections and relationships are vital to building a strong partnership and to ensuring that the partnership serves both sides in the most effective way possible. I am excited to learn more about Burmese culture and the problems that are associated with living in a migrant community. I hope that by learning more about this community and how their problems are addressed I will be able to gain experience in understanding and responding to health care access barriers in a variety of settings. The connections and relationships I form while on GROW will help me to continue a strong partnership built on mutual respect for the rest of my time in GlobeMed. I believe that the knowledge and experience I gain while on GROW will be beneficial in my future in GlobeMed and my future as advocate for equity in health care around the world.