So much to learn at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal

By Tonya Tagoona, IAYI/ICAD Intern

The month of January has been like no other. Many years, I have spent this time of the year in piles and piles of snow with -50 weather. Not this time. I am here in Durban, South Africa in the middle of summer with +30 weather as a Documentation and Research Assistant for the Networks for Change program with McGill University and University of KwaZulu-Natal has been of the best opportunities I have taken yet. The days are going by very quick, it has already been a month since arrival and from that I learned that I must make every day of every moment count. I am grateful for the members of the team, Felicia’s and I’s landlord (who is next door to us) and our roommate who is in the same apartment building as us. They are all awesome, wonderful and most importantly, supportive.

The members of the group gave presentations on teen pregnancy, substance abuse, HIV/AIDs and gender base violence to Felicia and I. The presentations opened my eyes and gave me a better understanding on ways I would have never thought of. Also, the supervisor Lisa, has shown Felicia and I projects that the Young Women’s Success Group from Winterton has worked on. The projects included cellphilms, digital stories and photo voice. I find that it is a creative way to spread the message(s) of issues within the villages. Luckily, two weeks later we met the Young Women’s Success group and when we arrived, I felt welcomed instantly. Meeting the girls was very brief but in the short time they were all smiling, hugging, shaking our hands and they have seemed very interested in who Felicia and I were and where we came from. Recently, Felicia and I have been taught by the members of the group how to do a photo voice. I found that interesting as we have to pick a topic, take pictures and write about a couple issues then write ways we could prevent it. Right now, we are working on our own digital stories (and I am almost done) and it is another fun activity to do because almost similar to photo voice we pick a topic realistic to the community, write a story, draw and read then later becomes a little video with yourself telling the story.

Elva, our landlord, every Sunday she has a gathering on her balcony. Last Sunday, we had a braai (BBQ). I enjoy these gatherings because it is a way to bring us together to get to know each other with stories that we all have to share. Last, Kaari, our roommate has driven Felicia and I all over! We have been to a couple beaches, restaurants, to the mall and he has even taken us grocery shopping. The act of kindness that has been given is unexplainable, I am grateful.

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