IHP Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care (Spring 1)

South Africa Letter Home

May 14, 2012

How’s it from South Africa!

After a nine-hour flight from Buenos Aries, we transitioned from Tango to Table Mountain – the iconic natural wonder of Cape Town. After an orientation that provided us with historical, social, and political context to this complex city, we settled into our new homes in the colorful neighborhood, the Bo Kaap, a close-knit Muslim community.

Our studies here have been focused on HIV/AIDS, TB, and structural violence. We received amazing lectures from Susan Levine, an anthropology professor at the University of Cape Town (UCT) who was the former South African Country Coordinator for IHP. Another standout lecturer was the director of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC). The first week, our schedule focused on lecturers, and the second week we were given more freedom to explore our own interests and case study topics.

We broke up into small groups and visited organizations such as Waves For Change, a nonprofit focused on HIV/AIDS awareness through surfing (we even got to surf with the kids!); went to Kaylethsa, a township in the Cape Flats; and visited the NGO Mothers2Mothers which focuses on matching mentor mothers with other mothers who have AIDS. We also made appointments with Sangomas (traditional healers), UCT professors and students, and homestay mothers to discuss health in Cape Town.

Outside “the classroom” we explored the city - hiking up Table Mountain, boating to Robben Island, visiting the Penguins in Simon’s Town, and going out on Long Street. After two weeks, we ventured to Zwelethemba, a township in Worchester an hour East of Cape Town.

Zwelethemba was a once in a lifetime experience for many of us in the group. Any worry that we may have had soon disappeared as the families took us in as one of their own children. One of the most memorable aspects of Zwelethemba will be the bonds we formed with many of the kids that lived there. The children taught us games such as Tuva and Ah Chico Chico, whose tunes will remain in our heads long after we return to the States. We are sad to leave our homes after two weeks but excited to head to our retreat at High Africa where we plan to rock climb, canoe, and complete a high ropes courses.

As our four-month journey comes to an end, our hearts are filled with a broad spectrum of emotions. We are excited to return to our friends and family at home who are anticipating our arrival yet we are sad this amazing and transformative experience is coming to an end. It will only be when we arrive at home that we will have full perspective of all the things we have learned and realize just how much we have grown. In fact, we trust this IHP experience is just a launching pad for continued growth.

As we begin to pack our bags one last time, we reflect on all of the things for which we are grateful. We are truly grateful for each other --- how we have asked hard questions, pushed our boundaries, and sat with complexity. We are grateful for our leaders – how they have helped guide the group and support our transformative journey. We are grateful for the families that have held us and shared their respective local cultures, and we are thankful for all of the speakers, places, spaces, and organizations that have opened our eyes, ears, and hearts to what it means to explore the relationship between health and community.

We look forward to sharing our experience with you all when we return!

All the best,
Health & Community Spring 2012 Track One Cohorts

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Credits: 16

Duration: Spring, 16 weeks

Program Sites:
United States, India, South Africa, Brazil

Prerequisites: None. Coursework in public health, anthropology, biology, or related field recommended.

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