Does GROW Work?

I’m writing this blog from the small town of Cofradia de Suchitlan in the state of Colima, Mexico. This is the center of much of the GROW activity in Mexico, and the area that has now received funding for a number of years. I had the opportunity this summer to come here to spend three weeks learning more about the people who have received benefits from GROW, the culture of the area, and what is really working in the program. I’m also learning it all totally immersed in Spanish, so before I write anything here, I am trying to make sure I understand it as completely as possible!

Project Amigo, which has received GROW funding almost since GROW’s inception, is incomparable. Under the direction of Ted Rose and Susan Hill, Project Amigo gets applications from students, usually starting in about the 7th grade. These students are extremely poor, and they have reached the end of the education they will receive without help. And without education, they will continue to live in poverty and with a high degree of social problems, including problems with family structures, alcohol, early teen pregnancies, and subsistance existance.

The students who receive funding from GROW are students who live in the area where bananas are grown most, near the Pacific Coast. They are the shining stars, but they are also incredibly caring and giving people. They choose to educate themselves, but they also choose to use the education they get to help the lives of their families and of their communities. Once they are selected to be GROW scholarship recipients, they can continue their schooling with the help of the program, provided they do well in school and continue their service to the community.

Ted and Susan were compared to Mother Theresa by a friend who is here with me immersed in the GROW experience. They are selfless, serving, energetic and enthusiastic about their adopted country. And they realize, as does anyone who is fortunate enough to spend time here, that our hopes for a better world often come through education. In the US we take it for granted. For those who are GROW scholars, this can mean the difference between sleeping on a dirt floor at night for the remainder of what would probably be a short life and being able to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities. Through GROW, they are learning to understand the problems and the opportunities, and they are passionate about bettering their lives.

Life is a celebration for those who are fortunate to be GROW scholars, and they never forget the opportunity that is being given to them. Their favorite word seems to always be “Gracias.”

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