A Lesson on Active Listening

Active Listening is “a kind of a skill that is seductive” —GROW Intern


This past weekend, GW’s GROW team visited Northwestern University for a 2-day GROW Institute to prepare each GROW team for their internship. As Jenny, Mackenzie, Biz and I prepare for our upcoming internship with Set Her Free in Kampala, Uganda, I think about our roles visiting the country. I realize how important it is to be cognizant of the “Western savior complex” when visiting a foreign country. As a GROW intern, I realize that it can be easy to think about Set Her Free with a particular set of expectations and assume that they need resources or aid. Power dynamics can come into play and we can lose focus of the purpose of our partnership. In order to maintain a balanced, effective relationship between GW GlobeMed and Set Her Free, it’s critical to exercise active listening as a GROW coordinator. Listening is the most powerful tool for understanding Set Her Free and their mission. The GROW team can maintain a sustainable, effective partnership by asking Robinah what she needs most, what she would like us to do in Uganda, and what role GW GlobeMed should play in assisting Set Her Free.

As one student from the University of Rwanda pointed out, “GROW coordinators cannot act like they’re the only ones who know about the organization”. In fact, it should be the opposite. As GROW interns and coordinators, we should be hyper-aware of the advice and knowledge we gain from members of our partner organization. The only assumption we should make is that Set Her Free’s staff members possess more knowledge than we do about Set Her Free. Our team should have open ears and an open mind in order to foster an atmosphere of deep understanding and sincere empathy. We will not be able to continue to build upon our relationship with Set Her Free without the ability to internalize the knowledge we gain from Robin, Robinah, and all girls enrolled in Set Her Free.

–Kelsey Oliver


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