Authors: Aislinn Corbet and Amanda Hawker
A group of students from Grand Valley State University impacted 8 NGOs in South Africa through professional writing on a Writing for Change internship.
Our partnership with Grand Valley State University (GVSU) began at the 2017 NAFSA conference when Professor Christopher Toth, chair of the US university’s Department of Writing, approached us with an idea that had been brewing in his mind for quite some time: to create an international study abroad experience for students of the GVSU writing department that incorporated professional writing and intercultural engagement in a uniquely African context.
This program would be the very first of its kind for both the university and African Impact.
Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity to be involved in such a pioneering program!
The conversation continued until two faculty members visited our Cape Town projects in May 2018 on a faculty development trip. They returned to the USA a week later, hearts and minds overflowing with stories and memories of their time in Cape Town.
Finally, in 2019, we welcomed the first group of students on the Grand Valley State University Writing in Action study abroad program.
12 students were matched with one of 8 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in various areas of the community development sector. The program ran over 3 weeks and allowed students an opportunity for experiential learning while making a positive impact through their knowledge, skills, and expertise.
The Zanokhanyo Network – An employment initiative offering transformative job readiness training that empowers the unemployed with the confidence, skills, and resources they need to find work.
Persona Doll Training – An accredited training provider that trains teachers, social workers, health workers, and early childhood development practitioners to use a diverse array of dolls to transforms schools, communities, and society by addressing prejudice and discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, class, and ability.
African Impact Foundation – Implements long-term, sustainable change through projects that focus on Education, Health, Gender Equality, Empowering Families, and Conservation.
South Africa Makes – A first of its kind 3D printing and 4D development initiative that trains youth and future changemakers with sustainable skills to address current socio-economic challenges.
IKASI Soccer School – Provides young women with a safe, educational after school soccer program that focuses on building their confidence, equality in society, and passion for the sport.
Fikelela AIDS Project – A mission program of the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town who are involved with foster care, HIV prevention, and support for people living with HIV.
School of Hope – A project of the Thembalitsha Foundation that is committed to breaking the cycle of crime, poverty, and unemployment by giving every person the chance to complete their education.
Women’s Hope, Education & Training (WHEAT) Trust – Provides support through the allocation of grants, seed funding, and training programs to women-led organizations, enabling them to uplift themselves and their communities through economic and social income generation activities.
The placement of each student was based on the requirements of the relevant NGO and the student’s academic strengths and interests. Before departing for South Africa, students were tasked with researching the NGO they would be placed with and then presenting their findings to their fellow students; guaranteeing that each student arrived with a basic understanding of the work their NGO was involved in.
To celebrate their hard work, a presentation day was held at the African Impact offices towards the end of their placement. The students created PowerPoint presentations showcasing their work to an audience which included staff from the local NGOs, the GVSU faculty leaders, and African Impact staff. With such a big audience, the students were naturally nervous, but they all rose to the occasion and the presentations were a massive success!
African Impact facilitated the group by connecting students with NGOs, coordinating meetings and presentations, taking them on guided tours and excursions, and opening up numerous opportunities for cultural exchange, meaningful engagement, and work that effected progressive change.
The proof of the success of the program was in the numerous tears shed at the airport on departure day. Genuine friendships forged over a short period of just 3 weeks and the many grateful NGOs who were so appreciative of the hard work these students put in.
This program is one of the many ways African Impact can customize and curate a study abroad experience and make a positive impact, by design.
African Impact has been providing learning experiences in Africa through volunteer and internship programs for over 15 years. We are based on the continent and thus, have a deep understanding of its unique political, socio-economic, and cultural landscapes. Through our customized programs, we develop an atmosphere of immersive learning with an emphasis on sustainable community involvement, skills development, and intercultural communication and exchange.
Our study abroad programs create strong connections between students, organizations, and communities, and give students a unique opportunity to learn and develop skills that will enhance their studies, future careers, and lives.
If you’re interested in creating a customizable study abroad experience for your high school, university, or special interest group, get in touch with our Study Abroad team today!
Image credit: Thulani Dyushu