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Supporting multiple organizations working on critical community issues – 2021

South Africa, Durban
Dates May 17 - July 9
Program Focus

Living (virtual in 2021) and learning in a community established as a result of apartheid; partnering with local organizations to improve economic, environmental, educational, and overall opportunities.

Dates subject to change

Program Leaders
Program Themes
  • Children
  • Community Development


During their eight weeks, students will volunteer with organizations in Durban working to improve the economic, environmental, educational and overall conditions and opportunities for residents of Wentworth, a community established as the result of apartheid. The program includes opportunities to learn about the experience and impact of apartheid from community partners, homestay hosts, and other members of the community.

The program seeks students who are interested in direct service work as well as in the government, policy, and power systems that require, fund, and otherwise influence those services and the people and institutions that are the intended beneficiaries.

The group will have opportunities to discuss SA’s and the Wentworth community’s health, education, environmental justice, and economic development efforts; communicate and building relationships with community partners; learn about race and power dynamics in South Africa; interpersonal group dynamics; self-care; and other issues and topics that emerge from the students’ experiences. We invite guest speakers to meet with the group about growing up during apartheid, education, politics, and other issues at times by student request and planning. Guest speakers and discussions will continue in this year’s virtual format.



Partnership Opportunities (Virtual)

Students work on challenges such as community economic development; primary (elementary) education; environmental advocacy, education, law and policy; public health/health education; child welfare; and youth development, including academic and life skills.

Following are brief descriptions of expected placements and the type of work students are likely to do.

For all 2021 placements, DukeEngage students are likely to provide assistance in areas including COVID-19 response and relief through written communication; writing organizational materials (such as flyers, presentations, press releases, and webpage content), social media, and program/curriculum development.

  • Blue Roof Life Space is a “youth centre focused on holistic care for young people.” Students will develop a youth-focused wellness radio campaign, beginning with community research and strategy and continuing to production and implementation of the campaign. (
  • South Durban Community Environmental Alliance: SDCEA focuses on environmental justice and related issues. Its activities have included: monitoring air pollution and incidents, lobbying elected officials for clean air legislation, writing and distributing information to stakeholders, convening workshops to inform and empower community members, and working for sustainable urban development.
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal: Students will work with two researchers at UKZN (under the direction of Dr. Mosa Moshabela, acting Dep. Vice Chancellor) to synthesize local, national and international research on helping communities cope with and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic into key learnings and recommendations; and work with local organizations focused on implementing those strategies.
  • Assegai Primary School: Duke Engage students work with teachers and students on areas of the curriculum such as math and science and may develop new projects/programs for the elementary school students.
  • Saint Monica’s Children’s Home: Typically, the DukeEngage student assists with daily activities to support the children, including tutoring, development and engaging in games, accompanying the children and staff on outings.

There is an opportunity to develop program components and/or materials to enhance what St. Monica’s can offer to the children, staff, and adoptive parents.There is a possibility of student placements in additional organizations, including:

  • Durban South Skills Development: DSSD is a nonprofit skills development program for individuals with a range of physical and developmental disabilities that make it challenging for them to find employment in the traditional labor market. DSSD provides employment training and other skills. The organization operates income generating enterprises that employ people with disabilities. Students would assist with outreach and communication, developing training materials, and other efforts.
  • Community Resource Centre: The Community Resource Centre is a project and program of the Victim Friendly Centre, which is a domestic violence relief and support program housed at the local police station. Both entities assist with financial and emotional self-sufficiency, provide a range of support for families in immediate need, and make referrals to other service providers. DukeEngage students would assist with networking and educational efforts involving schools, hospitals, and other organizations. They also would develop communications and outreach materials, and conduct and share research and insight on the work of organizations in South Africa and elsewhere that do related work.

Keep in mind that South Africa is six hours ahead of Eastern Time in the summer months (winter in South Africa), and that some program commitments will be aligned accordingly.



Language: English is spoken in Wentworth and throughout Durban.

Coursework: Specific prior coursework is not required, however, it is an asset if students have some knowledge and understanding of: South African history and culture, particularly the history of apartheid and its continued impact 25+ years after its official end; health, education, environmental policy and practice; and the nonprofit sector (in the U.S. or abroad).

Skills: Strong writing skills are necessary. Ideal but not necessary are – experience with grant writing, website development, and social media.

Personal Qualities: Students who have had the most “success” contributing to community partners’ efforts are those who are resourceful, creative, flexible and adaptable, have an entrepreneurial spirit, are willing to propose and try new skills and experiences, and who ask thoughtful questions. This is important every year but especially given the virtual setup for 2021 and given that students’ specific responsibilities are rarely thoroughly established in advance of the program start.