Students working with local organizations in South Africa


Photo by Shelby Willburn

Tova Kibal, Features Editor

Students at West Texas A&M students are going on a service learning trip to Cape Town, South Africa, early March to collaborate with local organizations on media projects with the goal to make a social change.

The students enrolled in the faculty-led program have been divided into three groups, each group working with a different organization. The three organizations are the Big Issue project, Aspire Youth and the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum. The students ran a book drive during WT’s Communication Week, where they collected children’s book to bring with them on their two week trip to Cape Town.

“I’m excited about getting a fresh perspective,” said graduate student Halei Story. “…seeing those parallels of what is different, which hopefully gives me a refreshed perspective, and being able to continue the fight at home.”

This is Story’s first time outside the United States. She is one of the students working with Aspire Youth group, an organization that gives out microloans to young entrepreneurs. The student group will highlight four youth in the program and put together videos for them, to be posted on their personal websites as well as Aspire Youth’s website.

‘‘It’s really just trying to highlight where they were, how Aspire Youth has helped them, and why it’s important to join the program or even donate money to the program,’’ Story said.

The students are visiting places like Table Mountain, that offers a 360-degree view of Cape Town and Boulders Beach, known for being populated by a colony of African penguins.

The groups are also going on a safari and visiting the famous Robben Island, where former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela sat imprisoned for 18 years.

For graduate student Adam Gonzales, this trip is about more than service learning. Being a gay Latino and a former Catholic, he explained that he looks forward to being part of the majority again.

‘‘Here, I don’t always feel like I fit in. But over there, it’s going to be like ‘oh you’re just an American,’’’ Gonzales said. ‘‘I know it sounds weird to say, but I’m looking forward to experiencing that.’’

Hannah Ellis is a WT graduate student and the director of the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum group. The group’s goal is to help the museum increase its revenue and visitors, and they will be creating videos and revamping the museum’s website to gain attention to the museum.

Ellis will be working directly with the museum’s director on improving the museum’s business page on facebook. She believes the page could be a good platform to promote the different events the museum hosts, such as traditional dances and meetings.

“If there are tourists in the area, they might be interested in coming and paying a small donation to watch the dances or come and learn a little about the museum,” she said.

Ellis is looking forward to seeing the tourist attractions and beautiful sites, but she explained that she is most excited to learn the differences between South Africa’s digital media and digital media in the United States.

“We are really lucky to have what we have, and I think it’s going to be an eye-opener,” she said.

Ellis believes it’s important that the students remember that they are not only representing WT but also the United States during they stay in South Africa.

“When we are down there, we have to remember that we are guests in their country,” she said. “We kind of have to put some of our American, westernized culture at bay and really listen and learn their culture.”