“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao-Tzu

8, 795 miles to be exact.

For this year’s GROW team, that significant single step occurred months ago when we met as a team for the very first time. In spite of the fact that the meeting was held via a Google Hangout, albeit one of the more successful ones (they never seem to go as smoothly as you would like them to), having the chance to finally see each other not just as fellow chapter members, but as GROW teammates who we would be living and working together with for two whole months in Cambodia was a wonderful stride forward. Since then, a few of us have attended the GROW Institute in Chicago and we’ve held weekly Monday GROW meetings generally consisting of working on different tutorials and workshops, finalizing trip logistics, and discussing biweekly staff meeting contributions. Moments of team bonding are often peppered in throughout the roughly 1 1/2-hour-long sessions.

GROW Institute came and went in the form of an informative and inspirational 2-day long workshop near the end of February. Although the weekend did make me slightly more nervous at first in terms of planning for the trip and making sure everything was as productive as can be (who knew that M&E could be such an intense topic??), spending two days attending the different sessions ranging from how to use and create media effectively to learning about safety and security abroad quickly brushed the apprehensiveness aside. Not to mention it was a wonderful experience to be able to meet so many people who were just as passionate and as excited as we were, and to bond with those who also had partner organizations in the same country.

Although that weekend in February was resourceful for me and the two other members who went, Dan and Aasim, our weekly GROW Meetings along with our own individual preparations have been even more so. While we’ve been working on a number of topics ranging from grant writing to ESL, and planning the different media tools we’ll need to utilize during the trip, our main focus this year is on a health education tool kit that the ghU and GROW teams are working on together in collaboration with Mr. Chanthan, the Executive Director of CSSD. Implementation of this tool kit, which will cover  the topics of menstruation, homeopathic care, hygiene, and contraceptives, will occur during the first few weeks of the internship and so we’ve been hard at work figuring out the most effective way to get the information across, getting answers from Mr. Chanthan about any questions we have, and convening during staff meetings to discuss any new updates.

Everything culminated in the form of this past week where we not only embarked on the first of five Khmer lessons (with the help of last year’s GROW Coordinator, Gabby Slomicz!), but we had our first group Skype call with Mr. Chanthan during the meeting on March 31.  While we were able to finalize a few more points concerning the health tool kit, I have to say that there was a lot of excitement since it was his first time seeing the other four people who would be going on GROW. Later that week on Thursday, both ghU and GROW met with one of TT’s professors, Professor Amaya-Fernandez, who was kind enough to meet with us and also give us a few pointers and books on what she had found to be effective when creating health education modules.

GROW has been an ongoing process since last year but I have to say that it wasn’t until recently that I’ve begun to realize how everything we’ve been working on up till now will soon become very very real. I guess those days we spent filling out various forms, buying our plane tickets, and figuring out vaccinations and insurance policies just don’t hold a candle to the feeling you get as you move closer and closer to finalizing tangible preparations in the form of tutorials and tool kits. And despite the fact that I know things will change and I’ll definitely have to stay flexible, I can begin to see the foundation that we’ve been laying down start to take shape and I can see what will come out of all of our combined dedication, passion, and hard work as a chapter and as a partner.

On that note, please check out our blog posts as we move closer and closer to May 26 (we’ll be arriving in Phnom Penh on the 28th!) to stay connected with our GROW preparations and eventually, our GROW trip itself!

With GlobeMed Love,