Lynette Connacher spent six weeks enrolled in a Learning Sustainability and Community Engagement program in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Through the LSCE program, Lynette began a week long briefing on how to become and be certified as an effective Community Engagement Worker in the township of Lynedoch, which has the highest rate of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the world. From Lynedoch, she went on to the township of Kayamandi to work in the Vision AfriKa Center for youth. Vision AfriKa’s mission is to give encouragement, personal ownership and responsibility to the youth of South Africa. This approach complements the academic support offered to participants in their schools by enabling them to develop and pursue a better life after school hours. At Vision AriKa, Lynette, along with two others, facilitated a week and a half long Sports and Dance program. During this program, Lynette taught the children games from the United States, soccer, and taught some yoga techniques, as well as dances. Along with the physical aspect of the program, Lynette was able to learn a lot about the native cultures in South Africa. The children of Kayamandi were primarily isiXhosa, but she was able to learn about Zulu and Afrikaans cultures as well. In the frontline, the children Lynette encountered seemed extremely happy and pleasant, but underlying issues of malnutrition and poor development plagued areas she visited in South Africa. Being in a less-fortunate environment seriously opened Lynette’s eyes to the fact that much more needs to be done to better the world, and made her want to spring plans into action to do her part to reach this goal.
CEE Title: Africa: Rewriting the Single Story
Africa: Rewriting the Single Story was a community engagement experience brought together by myself, Lynette Connacher, Suzanne Normile, and our extremely helpful campus coordinator, Judy Freedman. It was a night open to the entirety of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown’s student/faculty/staff community, as well as the public, held in our Cambria Room. Our main focus of the CEE was to give awareness, as well as insight, into the different cultures and ways of life in the different areas of Africa. Suzanne and I strove to allow our community to visualize that there is more to the “single story” of Africa, or more to the typical stereotypes many believe to be truth for the whole of Africa. For example, we aimed for the audience to understand that Africa, a continent not a country, is extremely fruitful in many different cultures, and although the typical stereotype (mostly a view of West-African culture) does hold true for some of the continent, just not the entirety. When the audience first arrived, they were offered refreshments of South African dessert, Malva pudding, and drinks. After being seated, the audience was then asked to write down the first three words that came to mind when thinking of Africa. Suzanne and I then began our presentations of the different cultures of Africa, and how the different misconceptions on the notecards distributed, though common, should be rethought. To top off the night, local West-African dance group, Kulani, performed and executed a workshop with dancing and drumming for the audience to take part in. Afterward, to my surprise, many members of the audience stayed to ask questions and share their insights from the experience. From this, one could tell the night was extremely beneficial, and that the audience truly took something with them from the CEE. I was thankful our goal aim was taken to heart by some, and that our CEE made a small difference in their views of Africa.