My IES class, and one of the reasons that I chose IES in general, is entitled “Healthcare and Community Development in South Africa” and I’ve really, really enjoyed it so far. We are currently learning about the healthcare here, something of which I am very interested in, but for the class itself there is also a strong community portion. We are also required to do a community project so our first stop on the fieldtrip was at Egoli, an impoverished township just outside of Cape Town… and when I mean impoverished, it was vastly different from the developing township we stayed at for our home stay as this would be the typical mental image that one would associate with a township. Upon arrival, you could immediately tell that there was disparate help needed for the community as there was trash everywhere, lining the streets. We also just had a bit of rain a few days ago and there was still standing water in the dirt roads making for muddy and pretty unsanitary conditions… however, sanitation doesn’t seem to be all that big of a priority in Egoli as there were animals running around everywhere (dogs, chickens, and even horses) probably carrying many diseases as they clearly didn’t have proper care. The problems seemed endless within the community, making our project easy to formulate, but a definite shame for the area. For all living communities, the government provides fresh water and toilets (in the form of porta potties that get emptied three times per week… not terrible but clearly not the best conditions)… although they provide water, it is communal and one has to walk quite a distance just to get some water for the day… could you imagine carrying your water home for a bath? Anyways, we met the community leader who talked to us about some of the needs within the community and how we could be of assistance during our short stay. Their most pressing issue was the need of new land as the land that they have been on for 40+ years is in terrible condition… however this is a problem that I don’t think we’ll be able to realistically tackle being here for such a short amount of time. She listed off many other problems around the township that included but were not limited to: sickness (especially among the children and the elderly) that probably largely stems from the lack of nutrition, proper clothing, proper housing, and unsanitary conditions. They also have a problem with lack of hygiene (especially amongst the youngsters), broken-down homes (literally covered in plastic and sheets with metal and wood paneling to try to keep the warmth in), and possibly their biggest problem of trying to get children to attend school. The school is a few kilometers away and they must cross a highway on the way, deteriorating the chances of children actually going to school—not to mention school is early and many just flat out are not interested in attending. This is certainly one of the issues that we hope to touch on while working on our community project as we hope to spark an interest in education and explain why an education is so important. Instead of going to school, many of the children get involved in illegal activities or just ask for trouble… and many of the young girls end up pregnant, a big problem in the township. We also got to see their church which doubles as the community center. There were plastic chairs inside a rundown “hut-like” structure with broken windows and all. This is hopefully an area we can touch on in our project as well, bringing good to the entire community by cleaning up their main meeting point. Being that it is our focused, IES class there are actually only seven of us in the class and for most of them (probably all), this was the first time that they have seen a real township. Although one could think that the living conditions in Tambo, where we stayed on our home stay, were rough, it is nothing compared to Egoli, a community that is some need for help… although, the reality of the situation is that there are many, many communities like Egoli that exist in Cape Town… but although our contributions to the community may be small, they’re better than nothing. I’ll keep you updated on what we plan to do as the semester progresses.
I’ll also explain the second half of the fieldtrip involving the hospitals in the next post… as they were all just as eye-opening.