Today the students went to their placement sites for the first time. They will spend six days serving in the community of Heideveld, a suburb in the Athlone part of Cape Town. Over 90% of the population of Heideveld is coloured, the local term for multiracial. Our driver, Ibrahim, told me that about half of the residents were displaced from District Six, which was a residential area of Cape Town that was forcibly disbanded during Apartheid. We will learn more about this as we continue our time here.
Five students selected the Ihata Shelter for their placement site. This women’s shelter strives for a society free of gender-based violence. Women and children can reside there for six months where their basic needs are met while they heal and grow. The students got a tour of the facility, but also of the impoverished township. They were able to interact with little ones, and tomorrow they will be more involved in counseling settings. It sounds like they had a great experience today, and I’m excited to hear more as they continue to serve!
Two students chose the Heideveld Community Health Clinic, a government run facility. We arrived at a crowded clinic and passed through the metal detector. We saw many waiting to receive care in several different areas. Loyiso, our placement coordinator, had informed us that people arrive early in the morning to be triaged, receiving a green, yellow, orange, or red code, indicating the severity of their needs. Those coded as green may not get seen in the course of the day. Unfortunately, the site supervisor for our students is out this week, and the day was not productive. Loyiso will be there tomorrow to address the students’ learning objectives, and if it seems they will not be met, they will likely move to Ihata. I appreciate our students’ flexibility, as well as those on the ground working on our behalf.
We are in good hands here and being well looked after by our host agency, VACorps. Thanks for following along!
Today we set out for the KirstenBosch Botanical Garden, hoping to learn about the amazing flora in South Africa. We were able to visit the inside exhibits, but we had to abandon our plan to stroll the grounds. The reason? Downpours! Best reason ever to have to end our visit, as the rains are desperately needed here. By the time we reached our minibus, we all were soaked. To the bone. We are happy that us Oregonians brought the rains. 🙂
After a quick stop at the students’ home-stays for dry clothes, we made our way to the city center and the Slave Lodge. This is a powerful museum about the history of slavery in South Africa, as well as how modern day still has stories of exploitation and victimization. It was a moving exhibit that opened our eyes. I am certain that we will continue to think on what we experienced.
Tonight is a cultural outing with VACorps, so we shall see what that holds. I appreciated the students’ flexibility today – Gumby is a good mascot for us!
After fun at the waterfront (check out Kaelyn & Aysia jamming with the musicians!), we headed to Gold for our multi-course meal. We enjoyed tasting foods from various parts of Africa, and the entertainment was amazing too (check out Mo dancing!). Our djembe drumming skills are coming along nicely, I’d say! When we walked outside of Gold, there was a light rain falling. Even though this means our Table Mountain plan for tomorrow may be disrupted, it is much needed and was a comfort to us all.
We are having a great tour of Cape Town today! William did a nice walking tour downtown where we began our learning about apartheid. We enjoyed a stroll through Victoria Garden and are relaxing at the waterfront as I write this. In a while we will have our multi-course welcome meal at Gold. All is well!
Everyone arrived safely in Cape Town, and we have settled into our accommodations (home stays in Rondebosch for the students & a “flatlet” in Observatory or “Obs” for me). Today we have our orientation at VACorps with Oliver, and then it’s time for some site-seeing with William. I hope to post some good photos of the group tonight, but here’s one of me (and Audrey) ready for the day!