Students to share insights from course in Africa

A group of Brock students recently spent three weeks in Africa examining issues in health care, education, politics, poverty, power and privilege as part of experiential education field placement.

The Brock community is invited to learn about their experience at an upcoming knowledge sharing event on Tuesday, June 27 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., which will include 10-minute presentations by 14 students.

In early May, the HLSC 4F93 Local to Global Health students began their international learning experience with a few days exploring South Africa, including touring the mountains and beaches of Cape Town and visiting Robben Island, the location of the prison that held Nelson Mandela.

“It was an interesting and valuable learning experience to see the island and to hear our tour guide’s first-hand account of what it was like to be imprisoned there and fighting against apartheid for freedom,” said Catherine Van Veen, one of the 14 Health Sciences students who will be sharing their experience at the event on Tuesday.

Students also spent two weeks in Namibia collaborating with community partners in the Township of Katutura, primarily working alongside at-risk youth at early childhood education centres, an after-school program and an adaptive educational and rehabilitation centre. The country was governed by South Africa from 1920 until it gained independence in 1990. During that period, Apartheid policies were implemented.

At the after-school program, Brock students helped children with reading, writing and math, and led focused initiatives on topics such as mindfulness, emotional regulation, movement and yoga.

A woman wearing a red Brock University T-shirt and a child crouch down on a sidewalk that has been decorated with chalk. They smile for a photo as they embrace each other, each with one arm around the other’s shoulders.

Catherine Van Veen with Lilian, a child who participates in the after-school program at the Bernard Nordkamp Centre — one of three organizations students engaged with while in the African nation.

Van Veen, who is a mother of four and an experienced nurse, helped lead a discussion on sexual health for a group of teenage girls and partnered with fellow students to organize the centre’s first parent night.

“It was so valuable working alongside a community partner to collaboratively decide on something fun and beneficial for kids and parents that would highlight our similarities,” said Van Veen. “We live on opposite ends of the world, but as parents, we all want the same things for our kids: a good education, access to health care and to be happy.”

Being immersed in local communities also allowed Van Veen and her fellow students to learn about the challenges experienced by many in Namibia.

“There are very real practicalities that stand as barriers to health-care access, and part of my education is understanding what those barriers are, not only in Canada,” said Van Veen. “I have a deep interest in global health, so it is interesting to see how many barriers are similar, but there are differences in the ways they play out.

“It was such an important learning step for me, personally and professionally, to be fully immersed in the culture and hear stories from people who have experienced the generational fallout from apartheid, racism, social injustice and colonialism, and how that ripples out to education and health care,” she said.

The HLSC 4F93 knowledge sharing event will take place in person in Plaza 600F and will be livestreamed via Microsoft Teams for anyone interested in watching the students’ presentations virtually. Attendees are not required to attend the entire event and can pop in and out of the presentations.

As a courtesy to the students presenting, anyone interested in attending all or a portion of the in-person event is asked to RSVP to by Monday, June 26.

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