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It’s hard to believe that four weeks of Duke Engage have officially passed. Despite its virtual format, this experience has been one to remember, filled with endless learning opportunities. While I appreciate the work I’ve been doing for our community partners, my favorite part of this experience has been the bonds I’ve been lucky enough to forge with the people we work with. 


Althea, the director of St. Monica’s Children’s Home, has a passion for her work that reveals itself in every one of our meetings. She has a genuine love for the children she cares for, and it’s such a delight to bear witness to it. And connecting with kids at St. Monica’s is truly a bright spot in my week. Their playful yet intelligent attitudes are invigorating to us all. Conversations with them are never straightforward, darting from the size of the White House, to pollution in South Africa, to Nasty C (a famous South African Rapper). 


Nicole, from the Blue Roof Life Space, has a knack for turning an idea into a reality with her innovative Talk Test Treat initiative that allows individuals to order HIV self-test kits. What’s more incredible to watch is how she pairs storytelling with the implementation of this project, drawing upon the experiences of young adults who have been affected by HIV to develop a streamlined and sensitive online platform. 


Dr. Mosa Moshabela, Dr. Nisha Nadesan-Reddy, and all of the researchers at University of Kwazulu-Natal that we have the privilege of working with are extremely hardworking individuals who constantly stress the value of appreciating a learning experience alongside the rewards that come from a final product. For every question I have, I always receive a response encouraging me not to feel nervous about my inquiry, but to see it as just one more opportunity to learn in a sea of knowledge. 


For only being halfway through, I have learned so much. Our community partners in South Africa are all hard-working individuals with a deep passion for their work. It makes me feel extraordinarily lucky to continue working with them, through the rest of Duke Engage this summer and (hopefully) after.