Embracing Challenges and Empowering Communities
Isabella Marie Gow
2nd Year, MPH Student
A week in San Antonio has flown by so fast! So many valuable lessons and skills were learned, and many hearts were touched. Here is a short recap of what I learned:
As mentioned in my first blog post, my team and I worked on asset mapping and conducting windshield tours, a new skill for most of us! Learning a new skill came with challenges. For example, defining what an asset is. We know that the word asset can mean many things in different contexts. In our project, creating our working definition of an asset was essential to adequately identify those in the community while conducting our windshield tours.
A challenge I encountered is learning to step out of my comfort zone and be outspoken. While the majority of my project work consisted of driving around the community with a few of my team members, there were times when I had to speak to community members in public spaces to gain valuable insight into their experiences living in Edgewood. Luckily, people were receptive to our questions and genuinely interested in improving the community.
Overall, the most important thing I learned on this trip is how crucial it is to build on the community's strengths. Several of our partners from South Central AHEC have expressed to us that they already know what types of weaknesses and barriers the community faces compared to other San Antonio communities. They wanted a fresh perspective on the community to identify assets that might be overlooked. So, that's what we did. The recommendations we formulated focused on the community's strengths and can direct time and energy to utilize what is already available.
In conclusion, this PHAST trip was a positive learning experience. I also met some new people I'd never met before during my two years at UM. Spending an entire week with my team was a whole new level of bonding. It was a bittersweet feeling as we all parted ways at the airport, but it felt like an appropriate ending to my graduate student experience at UM SPH. Thank you, and Go Blue!