This summer, the UT Austin chapter had its first GROW internship with our new partner, Wuqu’ Kawoq. While our chapter had many years of GROW internships to draw on for inspiration, guidance, and experience, this year’s GROW was pivotal in helping us better understand GlobeMed’s structure of partnership. On this trip we formed new relationships, met our partner community, learned about our partner’s model, and sowed the seeds for our future collaboration together. However, the journey wasn’t always smooth sailing. Maneuvering the partnership model and finding our role in an organization as complex as Wuqu’ Kawoq was challenging and difficult at times, especially being a new partner. Our partnership with Wuqu’ Kawoq was completely different than our past one with Clinica Ana Manganaro, so comparing the two experiences was of little help when trying to problem-solve. During these moments of unclarity, we found that communication, patience, and understanding were the key to overcoming these barriers. Through dialog and understanding we were able to get to know our partner and naturally find our role. Once we understood how we fit into the picture, we were able to more effectively and passionately do our job.
Throughout these moments of uncertainty, we had discussions on the efficacy of our partnership model and whether the GROW internship was more beneficial than detrimental. These discussions helped us realize the importance of GROW for our chapter, our partner, and our partnership. Here are a few of our insights:
- GROW is imperative for mutual learning, and boy did we learn a lot! We’d heard of how our partner caters to its communities by directly addressing the most important issues the community identifies, but seeing and hearing about the projects first hand really put in perspective just how important and successful that model is. Getting the full scoop on the project design and implementation process gave us ideas on how we as students could do the same for our community in the present, and how we could use this model in our careers to fight towards equity and social justice in the future. On our side, we felt that our “outsider” point of view offered new ideas and perspectives that made discussions really interesting.
- Perhaps one of the most crucial components of GROW is the face-to-face interactions that build trust, understanding, and the sense of a shared mission. Communication is extremely valuable, but a lot of its meaning is lost through emails and phone calls. Being able to meet and form relationships within the community makes it much easier to understand their perspective and advocate for them back home, and this reinforced our passion for our partner and their cause. Meeting the Mayan population and hearing their stories allowed us to fully appreciate why Wuqu’ Kawoq and GlobeMed work so hard to deliver health services to communities that need it most. Additionally, seeing the Wuqu’ team’s tireless devotion to their work inspired us to face our own work with consistency, humility, and urgency. Otherwise, if we don’t make our partnership a priority, it will inevitably fall behind the myriad commitments in our busy college lives.
- Being able to speak passionately and concretely about what our partner does is especially important for our campus presence and helps us achieve the advocacy component of GlobeMed’s mission. Whether we are tabling on campus to recruit prospective members, to fundraise, or to raise awareness of social justice issues, being able to talk about the personality and dynamic of our partnership adds an extra layer to these conversations.
- One of our biggest challenges as the first generation of GROWers was figuring out just how we fit into Wuqu’ Kawoq’s existing donor network and well-run initiatives. Compared to our previous partner, Wuqu’ Kawoq is a much more extensive and developed organization, with financial support and volunteers from around the globe, and serving multiple communities in Central Guatemala. Finding our role was at times a humbling and intimidating experience, but through interacting with Wuqu’ Kawoq’s team, we realized that we can help fund much-needed projects that other donors are not willing to support. For instance, most donors (especially crowdfunding platforms) do not fund preventive services or family planning, since these don’t “directly benefit” the patient in a medical sense. However, services such as diabetes education and contraceptives are absolutely essential for a community to thrive. We look forward to working with our partner to address these gaps in care in the Mayan communities of Guatemala.
- The problems our partnership aims to address and create solutions for are complex, and often at the crossroads of various issues and disciplines. For this reason, research and planning is no simple process. While our partner has numerous resources and primary data sources to use for framing our projects, we – as university students – have access to a vast amount of academic literature, data, and information about similar projects that we can contribute to the project as well. While on GROW this summer, we were able to utilize these resources through our university databases to find scholarly work and similar case studies that would help create a pilot program for our water filtration initiative. Our small contribution to the academic research that our partner conducts helps in our mission to create the most effective solutions to the most complex problems.
- A key aspect of our partnership is evaluating past projects and making sure our projects are having a positive impact on our partner community. At times, our chapter and our partner each have different perspectives and approaches, which can lead to confusion. However, the GROW internship allows us to contribute our chapter’s ideas to the partner team, while simultaneously learning from them and bringing back to our chapter and members the wealth of knowledge Wuqu’ Kawoq has to offer. It is incredible to see how different ideas boil down to make creative solutions to the problems our partnership aims to address. Evaluating projects can help both parties learn and grow for future initiatives.
- We saw that running a successful nonprofit requires many diverse talents and contributions from so many people. Behind Wuqu’ Kawoq’s mission and vision are many mundane tasks that are carried out by the hard work and unwavering dedication of each member of the team. It taught us to see each result, whether a social media post or completion of a project, as so much more. Working with Wuqu’ Kawoq showed us how to strike the necessary balance between idealism and pragmatism–how to keep our eyes on the overarching vision and maintain a sense of purpose, while having patience for the finer details in between.
Although our internship has drawn to a close, our partnership continues to thrive year-round. We cannot wait to begin another fruitful year of fundraising and advocacy, and look forward to seeing what kind of projects and relationships the future will bring. ¡Saludos!