Suzanne Normile

International Experience Country:
South Africa
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

University of Pittsburgh | Johnstown

Heinz Programming Area:
International Experience Summary:

Suzanne Normile spent six weeks in Cape Town, South Africa through the CIEE Community Development and Social Justice Program. In her academic studies, she developed an understanding of globalization’s effect on poverty and social issues in small and large communities through lectures and class excursions. Lectures focused primarily on historic factors leading to poverty and social polarization, while analyzing socioeconomic trends to understand the present conditions of South Africa. In the cultural engagement aspect of her stay, Suzanne volunteered at The Ark City of Refuge, a non-profit Christian-based organization which homes those affected by unemployment and homelessness. There she collaboratively designed activities for women in a drug rehabilitation program as well as for children of a low-resource single women’s program. During the final week of her program, Suzanne volunteered full-time at The Ark in which she helped build sustainable garden plots to strengthen food security for the hundreds of people the organization serves. The remainder of her time was spent on weekend homestays to nearby townships where she learned and used Afrikaans and isiXhosa vocabulary to engage with community members. 

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: Africa: Rewriting the Single Story

The mission of “Africa: Rewriting the Single Story,” was to raise awareness about the misconceptions of Africa. This event was designed to break down stereotypes while strengthening cultural awareness. The evening commenced with a brief presentation by VIH awardees Suzanne Normile and Lynette Connacher. Topics included economics, language, religion, food, and music. Each topic was discussed comparatively based on the four regions of Africa: North, South, East and West. In doing so, the audience was able to see the vast cultural variability among the continent. A West-African dance performance group took the stage at the presentation’s conclusion. Several songs and dances were taught in which all were welcome to participate in. Additionally, a number of students were given the opportunity to play traditional West-African drums. The goal was to quite literally bring a piece of Africa to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. In this way, the theme of “think globally, act locally,” could come through to the audience. As a treat, a South African dessert was served as well. A total of 75 attended.