The Frist Global Health Leaders (FGHL) program affords young health professional students, residents, and fellows the opportunity to serve and train abroad in underserved communities for up to one semester. In doing so, they will bolster capacity in clinics in need of support as well as offer training to community health workers to promote sustainability upon their departure from these communities. As part of the program, they blog about their expereinces here. For more information, visit our program page.
I was warmly welcomed by Mr. Paul Brooks, the executive director of Project HOPE UK and Ms. Betty Nkoana, the director of Thoughtful Path, Munsieville when I arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa. Before I came to South Africa, I learn from newspaper and other media source that although South Africa has the best economics condition in Africa continent, it has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence as well as many other infectious diseases.
Munsieville is a small township in the Krugersdorp area in Gauteng Province, South Africa. Betty picked me up from airport in the afternoon and drove me to the Children’s Embassy, which is the official office of the Thoughtful Path, Munsieville. On the way to the Embassy, I was shocked by what I saw: abandoned factories, abandoned farmland, small town with few shops open; people were wandering around without purpose. All these things I witness were happened at places where are less than one hour driving distances from Capital- Johannesburg.
After one and half hour driving, finally we arrived in Munsieville, and meet other volunteers and staff in the embassy. I expressed my curiosity to Paul that it looks like housings near Children’s Embassy are not bad, as well as the surrounding area. Paul smiled and led me into shack area where I can’t see from roadside. There are countless shacks behind well-built government sponsored housing, children are playing with trashes on the unsurfaced road (if they can be called road), no electricity in home (people get angry if call them shacks), no firewood, no enough clothes to keep kids warm, everything here indicates that this community need urgent help.
Paul explained why Project HOPE UK chose this site to run the Thoughtful Path: Africa overall is a disadvantaged continent, South Africa is relatively better and considered as a model for other African countries, so if Project HOPE UK can run a successful program in South Africa, all other African countries can learn from this case, copy the model, modify it and make it native. For entire one year, Project HOPE investigated eight different communities across South Africa, and found out Munsieville is the one which need immediate intervention in respect of large numbers of vulnerable children in the community.
I was reading lots of documents regarding the history of Munsieville, Project HOPE UK, The Thoughtful Path, who they are and what they do. Although I am still in the middle of the reading, I am sure that what I will do here will definitely be one of the most memorable thing in my life.