SU visits SA

Nine Newhouse students travel halfway across the world to tell the stories of Grahamstown, South Africa.

Traveling from Syracuse to South Africa on the tail end of the East Coast blizzard that shut down airports, trains and any helpful means of transportation made for a slow build-up to the exciting reporting experience nine Newhouse students were embarking on.

For some, the journey to Grahamstown began on America’s West Coast, 37 hours before the group flight was scheduled to depart from JFK International Airport. After flight delays and cancellations, jumping from plane to train to bus to taxi and even treks on foot, the entire team miraculously arrived at JFK in time to sit at the gate and wait for the delayed flight.

Photo: Mackenzie Reiss
A young South African child from the Phumlani neighborhood of the Grahamstown township stands outside the home of a sangoma, a traditional healer.

Latest from South Africa

Get updates via the project's Facebook page, or follow on Twitter at @suvisitssa.

Following 15 hours in the air, the group flew from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth, and from there, everyone -- and their luggage (minus a few lost bags) -- packed into small taxis for the final hour-and-a-half leg of the trip, arriving in Grahamstown by nightfall.

The first full day began with chatter among students about which stories they would get to cover. After meeting translators, the student reporters briefly brainstormed ideas, learned greetings in Xhosa and set out for a day of meeting sources. Many walked out into the township, through thousands of make-shift homes constructed from sheets of corrugated iron, cardboard and brick. Other people lived in newer – but still modest -- homes funded by the government’s Reconstruction Development Program (RDP). Located on the outskirts of Grahamstown, the township, or “location,” is where the majority of black, impoverished residents live. While many homes have no running water or electricity, occasionally satellite dishes can be spotted jutting out from the side of roofs and pulsating music explodes from the homes’ thin walls. Dogs, mules, goats and other livestock roam freely through poorly paved streets, and minivans serve as taxis offering rides throughout the location for 6 Rand.

On the first full day, the entire group reunited mid-day to visit the Eluxolweni Charitable Trust Child and Youth Care Centre, and met the staff and boys who live there. Next, students were off again to collect video and interviews, and to make use of the day’s remaining hours.

Students worked in pairs and each were accompanied by a translator and a plain-clothes security guard from High Tech, as an extra precaution. The four teams and stories currently in the works are as follows:

Nate Hopper and Danielle Waugh are working with translator Sanele Ntshingana to profile a woman from the township who makes her living selling beaded jewelry outside of Rhodes University. The pair is also following the owner of a donkey cart who travels out of the township to collect wood for construction.

Jamese McConico and Brandi Kellam, paired with translator Zukisani Lamani, are collecting the stories of boys at the local shelter, and visiting nursing homes to compare how white and black South African seniors are cared for. The pair also has a visit to the fire station scheduled.

Shayna Meliker and Christina Mehta, with translator Asanda Ncwadi, are studying the traditional rite of passage where boys are circumcised in the "bush," and return as a “bhuti,” or man. The two also traveled three hours outside of Gramahstown with Professor Steve Davis and Jason Torreano to spend the night with a white South African family who tend livestock on their 125-year-old farm.

Sierra Jiminez and Jennifer Cheng, along with translator Siyabulela Soxujwa, tackled several interviews with local religious leaders to discover how South Africans cope with death. Their next story will examine the lives of immigrants who reside in Grahamstown.

And photo student Mackenzie Reiss worked with The Stand’s Director Ashley Kang to document the life of those in the township, including food eaten, traditional healers and life as an albino. A traditional healer, known as a sangoma, not only heals illness but can bring good luck by speaking to the spirits.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.