Written by Hardik Patel & Dóra Kocsis.
Today we have learnt how just two hours in an afternoon can make changes in the life of the people. We spend all our time with SHAWCO (Student Health and Welfare Centers Organization) volunteer organization. Let us brief you about SHAWCO, a volunteer organization for students of UCT (University of Cape Town) which is among the top 200 universities worldwide. SHAWCO works in two sectors: education and health.
They receive a huge contribution from the students at UCT, with 1500 students working for the Education sector and around 800 students working on Health Care.
We had two sessions today, the first one by Jonathan Hoffmanburg, who focused on education in South Africa and more specifically in Cape Town. One statement which actually touched us is “Volunteer students are the light houses of the organization”. He introduced some statistics and one of the interesting fact he mentioned, that only 1% of the students from township schools enter the University of Cape Town (UCT).
The other session was given by Jonathan King, a 5th year medical student and board member of SHAWCO. He was talking about health care in South Africa and concentrated on MDG 6(HIV/AIDS and other diseases). Some of the reasons which are increasing the numbers of infected people are consanguinity (incest), intergenerational relations, less use of condoms and promiscuity (multiple partners).
Two major activities by SHAWCO are the mobile clinics and educational centers in townships around Cape Town. During the afternoon we got opportunity to visit them. In “Khayelitsha” and “Nyanga” we experienced how the volunteers from all over the world are helping them to improve their basic skills (such as numeracy and literacy) after the school with the children. At both places the children, the project coordinators and volunteers gave us a warm welcome, answered all of our questions and enjoyed our visit as much as we did.
The last course of the day was visiting one of the township mobile clinics in the evening. There are six medicine students and a doctor along with a pharmacist working as volunteer five days a week to look after twenty patients per night. These clinics provide free services and medicines after working hours for the people who don’t have money or time to go to the regular hospital. We were impressed by the motivation and energy of the volunteers who donate their time after a hard day at University!