Frist Global Health Leaders
East Tennessee State University
College of Public Health
Munsieville, South Africa
Courtney and I had the unique experience of helping a family in Mshenguville relocate their home. Mshenguville is an informal settlement within Munsieville, and the houses there are built on a hill. The houses at the bottom of the hill are in a flood-prone area with poor sewage facilities, and the families in these homes recently got permission from the local municipality to relocate to a different street near Mshenguville and move out of the flooded area. Mshenguville is sometimes referred to as a squatter’s camp because people come to the area to settle, claim an area of land, and build houses out of any available material. Because Mshenguville is an informal settlement, there is no government assistance in providing houses and resources for the community. The government simply gave the families permission to move and would not be providing new houses for the families, so anyone that wanted to move would have to do so on his or her own.
We had the opportunity of helping a woman named Celine and her mom with the moving process. We knew Celine’s mom from the GardenSoxx® class, and when we heard they were relocating we volunteered to help. We started by preparing the site for the new house. We smoothed out the ground, cleared away the rocks, and leveled the dirt in order to create a solid foundation before the house could be physically moved to the new site.
A few days later, Celine, her family, and a group of men started the relocation process. They first had to disassemble the house piece by piece. Then they moved all the furniture, clothing, and pieces of corrugated metal that would be used to reconstruct the house to the new site that Courtney and I helped clear. By the time we arrived in the afternoon to help rebuild the house, a great deal of progress was already made with the men doing the majority of the physical labor. Courtney and I helped hold a few pieces of metal in place while the men nailed it together, and we watched as the last side of the house was completed. Some of the metal pieces used to construct the house had corroded and could not be used in the reconstruction. The house had to be rebuilt smaller than originally intended because of a shortage of corrugated metal pieces to rebuild the house to its original size. Celine, however, remained positive that she could one day get more materials and expand her house, and she was glad to finally be moving away from the flooded area of Mshenguville.
This week we are compiling health education information and creating pamphlets for the community that will be kept at the Children’s Embassy. We had a meeting with the women in the Health Promotion Unit and discovered that there is a great need for the community to have general health information. Our preceptor asked us to create a series of brochures that would cover health topics such as nutrition and exercise, proper hand-washing technique, HIV/AIDS information, puberty, tuberculosis, and drug and alcohol abuse. We gladly agreed and will be creating different brochures for different age groups and making sure the information is culturally sensitive to the community. We will be writing the information in English and then people at the Children’s Embassy will translate the information to the various tribal languages spoken within Munsieville.
Also, this week we will be conducting part three of our research methods class. This will be the last part of the class, and we will be teaching Excel skills. After the last class, we asked the students to come up with their own short survey and then distribute it to people so that real data could be obtained. If all goes well, they will return with their survey results and we can input the data into Excel to be analyzed. We hope that the students in the class will leave with a better understanding of how to correctly develop and distribute a survey and use Excel to analyze the results. This way they can better understand the community in which they live.
It is hard to believe that Courtney and I have just over a week left in Munsieville. Our time is quickly coming to an end, and I want to savor this last little bit of time before we have to leave this wonderful community. Our sincere “thank you” to the Hope Through Healing Hands and Niswonger Foundations for helping make this incredible experience possible for both Courtney and me. We hope we made you proud.