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The first week was an exciting process of familiarizing myself with the organization and its programs and collecting my thoughts and formulating ideas on how to move forward. I will be working with the BlueRoof Life Space (BRLS), which is an economic development/HIV center in Durban, South Africa aiming to improve opportunities for youth in the local community. This week, I enjoyed being able to take a virtual tour of my worksite via FaceTime, as it helped build more of a connection with the people and place I will be working with over the next several weeks. I got to physically see the Career Guidance Center that I had heard so much about on Skype meetings and which will be the focus of much of my work moving forward.


An expansion of the center’s HIV programs, the Career Guidance Center helps expose local youth to the opportunities that exist beyond high school, matching them with career paths based on their personality types and interests. In addition, the BRLS runs a call center to generate revenue for their programs and serve as a business for youth to intern at. In this way, they are able to gain relevant work skills like effective communication and time management. Both of these initiatives are in need of capital in order to remain sustainable, and I am excited to help make a tangible impact in keeping these programs alive because they are a vital link between an underserved community and opportunities for economic advancement.


In learning more about the community, I have been surprised by the lack of exposure many young students have to opportunities beyond graduation, a fact that grants added importance to the work of BRLS. However, I am worried about garnering enough funding and support for the initiatives from the U.S., as convincing people to donate time and money to a cause halfway around the world is a natural challenge. This is heightened even further by the impact of COVID and other local social issues that are currently drawing mass attention. An outstanding question I have for my organization is the expected timeline for implementation amidst quarantine and a general decrease in normal business activity.


Rishi Meswani