Tag Archives: South Africa

A Year of Knee Research and Social Outreach in the Rainbow Nation

By Mathieu S. Davis, 2013-2014, South Africa

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Mathieu S. Davis, 2013-2014, South Africa (center), with his Grade R class at Ikaya Primary School in the township of Kayamandi, just outside of Stellenbosch. Every Friday, he would meet with these children to teach them English and play games in collaboration with their classroom teacher. In return, they taught Mathieu Xhosa. Whether it was ‘1-2-3 Red Light’, ‘Duck-Duck-Goose’ or a chaotic game of football (soccer), a great time learning and playing together was had by all.

My Fulbright in Stellenbosch, South Africa, was divided into two primary areas: research and community outreach. The research portion of my fellowship focused on knee replacement implants and the different tribological properties of current materials used in these devices. For this project, I had to build a device that functioned as a pin-on-plate wear tester, which would generate particles over the course of time that could be measured using simple distillation techniques to determine the degree of wear particles produced. My research aimed to determine the most effective combination of materials to limit debris and particle accumulation during extensive wear testing. I also performed additional research in gait analysis as a means of biometric identification. For this project, I had to come up with a novel statistical and repeatable method that could determine through statistical principles, the likelihood that two gait profiles are similar or different. This expertise was utilized by the South African Police Department as a potential identification tool of a crime suspect.

Playtime in Port Elizabeth

By Thalia Patrinos, 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to South Africa

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Thalia Patrinos, 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to South Africa, with her incredibly entertaining Circle of Life team leaders, including Duncan, Mishka, Pieter, and Danny

By day, I am a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at Paterson High School in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

By night, I am a hula hoop teacher, circus performer, and fire dancer.

My hobbies may seem eccentric, but they offer opportunities for endless exploration, healthy exercise, and incredible cultural connections with students and audience members.

I began the journey into circus arts during my first year of college six years ago, and I have never looked back. My side career in the teaching and performance of fire and flow arts have taken me to festivals in Hungary, theaters in New York City, and classrooms here in South Africa.

We all need a little bit of playtime in our lives, whether we are children or adults. We need to be encouraged to have fun, let loose, and get lost in something, and all it takes is something as simple as a hula hoop to get us there sometimes.

Time is Liquid, Time is Gold…Time is Liquid Gold

By Samantha Kay Kobs, 2014-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to South Africa

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Samantha Kay Kobs. 2014-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to South Africa, works with students in an after school English club that she and Fulbright partner Meia Geddes created at their school in Bloemfontein, South Africa. These games, provided by the Office of English Language Programs, help students improve their English speaking skills by prompting them to answer a variety of questions about themselves and the world around them (Photo Credit: Meia Geddes, 2015 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant placed here with me in Bloemfontein, South Africa).

The bell rings. Moments later, I hear the shuffling of 1,300 pairs of shoes as I brace myself for yet another lunch break spent working in the library; our library—the one at Dr. Blok Secondary School in Bloemfontein, South Africa. The one that my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) partner and I just reopened after six years of being locked up behind giant iron bars.

As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in South Africa, I’ve had many responsibilities: helping teachers, creating after school clubs, and reaching out to businesses for sponsorships. I’ve also spent plenty of time reestablishing the school library that was seemingly forgotten. Abandoned. Thousands of books—mostly outdated, torn covers, and enough dust to cause some serious asthma attacks—had to be cleaned and organized in a logical manner. Then came teaching my students the absolute basics of library etiquette. This has been exasperating to say the least, but I often remind myself that my students do not mean to disorganize with their frantic book grabbing—they are simply enjoying the privileges of a library for the first time in their lives. Challenges aside, I love what I do, but sometimes it’s difficult to see the impact that you’re having when you’re so caught up in the busyness of it all.

Finding Our Voices in South Africa

By Kimberly Burge, 2009-2010, South Africa

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Kimberly Burge, 2009-2010, South Africa (second from right), with some of the “Born Frees,” giving a public reading at the writing club they formed in Gugulethu, South Africa

To me, writing is me.

It is me listening

To what I have to say,

To what I want to say,

To what my heart says.

                – Gugu, age 16

I was not your typical Fulbrighter. I came to the program at the age of 40, after building a career in nonprofit communications, which had taken me to Africa for the first time in 2002 on a three-week trip that flew by. I fell in love with the places I visited, especially with South Africa. Years earlier, the country had played a pivotal role in educating me about social justice and activism through South Africa’s struggle against apartheid (its state-sanctioned racial segregation). While working, I also attended graduate school part-time, earning a master of fine arts in nonfiction writing. As I finished my degree, I wanted a new challenge, time to devote to writing in my own voice, maybe a chance to live abroad. A friend had just received a Fulbright Study/Research grant to translate poetry in Lithuania. I began to explore the program’s options.

It dawned on me then: Bold moves are not limited to one’s twenties.

Help Us, to Help You, to Help Others

By Tiffany N. Burd, 2013-2014, South Africa

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Tiffany N. Burd (second from left, middle row) at the Community Support Worker Graduation Ceremony in Cape Town, South Africa

Receiving a Fulbright U.S. Student grant fulfilled a lifelong dream of working in one of the most challenging communities in the world: a South African township. The grant allowed me to research the strengths of an extremely impoverished community with an estimated 40% HIV prevalence rate. The findings of the assessment were used to plan and implement HIV prevention programs at a local community resource center, Butterfly House, which serves 400 orphans and vulnerable children.

I conducted hundreds of interviews with people living around Butterfly House and quickly realized their strength. While interviewing a woman in her shack, I learned of her community activism efforts. She had mobilized over five hundred women to sign petitions to shut down a local pub that had been serving underage youth. A man shared his interest in nutrition and his endeavor to build a community garden. Others spoke of their participation in neighborhood watches. The list continued to grow and I left each interview knowing that each of us had shared a moment of mutual understanding of the world.