Compared to last semester, I feel a lot more rooted and comfortable in my role as a student here at UofM after spending nearly the last 3.5 years abroad in rural communities across the globe. Those experiences came with a lot of questions about my role as an American occupying spaces in governmental and nongovernmental projects. Throughout my time as a Global Activities Scholar in the School of Social Work, I’ve tried to uncover the best strategies, the most ethical approaches, tried to debrief the love and tension of my time abroad; sometimes to a fault. Although I haven’t come to a conclusion, I keep circling back to this: at the end of the day we as individuals can advocate for social change and social justice locally and globally and our dilemmas don’t imply inaction. Although there’s give and take in the ways in which we enter communities based on our power and privilege, we have the ability to give space and voice to individuals who are falling through the cracks of systems that still are learning how to best support all individuals.
This semester I am fortunate to be a part of the PHAST 2017 (PUBHLTH 616: Public Health in Action) Grenada and furthering my understanding of global work, through an academic lens and I’m extremely grateful to The Center for Education of Women (CEW) for supporting me on this trip! Three other individuals in the Schools of Public Health and School of Information and I make up the Strategic Planning team which will partner with the Ministry of Social Development. I can’t wait to meet the partners we’ve been communicating with over the weeks via video call and email and to gain a better understanding of their work in person. Although technology can be great, it’s just always so much better in person! So far, we’ve shifted directions a bit here and there, which is not surprising, and I expect that our time there will be filled with many more surprises. Overall, I appreciate their openness to collaborate with us and support us in this experience, which takes a lot from them, I’m sure. I also appreciate their input and engagement to ensure that the outcomes of this project are culturally relevant to the populations they seek to address. Although the trip itself is only one week, I hope that the pre-trip preparation as well as the communication with our partners will inform our work in the right way so that our projects will be of benefit to the Ministry in the best way possible.