Currently Calabash has relationships with numerous UK and USA based universities, among the Sheffield Hallam University, Potsdam University, College of St Johns, College of St Benedict, University of East Illinois, among others.

Effective partnerships with International Universities could assist in the vision of creating meaningful learning experiences for international students, while at the same time assisting in the development work of Calabash.

  • Using student teachers to share new methods with existing teachers. Through team teaching methods, a skills sharing can occur.
  • Social work students can assist in the development of effective strategies for schools to manage the impact of AIDS orphans, sexual abuse, counselling methods.
  • Early Childhood Development Practitioners can assist in developing and implementing, through modelling better learn through play strategies in ECDC’s.
  • Social Science students can assist in developing strategies for parent engagement within schools.
  • Business Students can assist at looking at strategies for developing LED within communities, using schools as the anchor.
  • Public Health students can support and share skills with home based carers in communities.
  • Business students can assist in developing business plans for community enterprises.

These are examples of what has been done, but each placement has to be researched to ensure community impact, as well as the desired learning and service as stipulated by the visiting university.

Due to the ongoing involvement of Calabash Tours and Calabash Trust within communities, the programmes run with Universities do not exist for their own sake, but rather dovetail with the already on-going work of the social enterprise, and the NGO. From a sustainability point of view, it then also allows for follow ups, and monitoring and evaluation of university involvement programmes. The skills and resource deficit in the townships of Port Elizabeth is such that, if well implemented, these programmes can only but be of benefit to local communities.

Calabash Tours is able to offer transport, accommodation, hand on management of the programme, as well as 24 hour contact on the ground in case of emergency.

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University Engagement with a Focus on Mutual Learning.

Calabash Tours and its sister organization, Calabash Trust have been involved in working with schools, universities and individual volunteers, in the townships of Port Elizabeth and Addo for many years.

Introduction

The challenge for universities around the world is preparing students for a rapidly changing world that is far more global than it was 20 years ago. In order for students to grasp the world upon which they are expected to make an impact, more and more universities are choosing to expose their students to global experiences, often radically divorced from the context from where those universities are located. Indeed, the developing world offers much insight and innovation, while often also suffering from radical social inequalities, poverty, underdevelopment and skills deficits. There is no doubt, that facilitating student experiences, that are well crafted, well facilitated and effectively implemented, offer a great opportunity for hands on student learning experiences, while also creating the opportunity for impact and participation in development activities.

Because of this, all trips need to be designed in consultation with the relevant universities, in a bespoke way, to ensure that students, the universities themselves and the communities involved derive the desired positive result.

The concept

The concept is simple. Is it possible to create learning experiences for students from the developed countries, that allow then to learn, apply theoretically held knowledge, while at the same time using that knowledge to support and assist in the development of poor communities?

The outcome is certainly desirable. Underdeveloped communities benefit from the involvement and skills sharing of students. Students are engaged in and prepared for the realities of the global world. Universities are able to increase the value of the offering they make to students.

Role Players:

Calabash Tours: This is a small, focused; niche tour operator based in Port Elizabeth that was established in 1997.It is essentially a social enterprise. Its operations are steeped in the philosophy of sustainable development and sustainable tourism. Calabash Tours has won local and international awards for its pro poor approach to tourism. Its primary purpose is to develop ways in which poor, urban communities can be involved in a way that benefits them economically and if there are developmental processes than can be leveraged through innovation within the tourism field.

Calabash Trust: Calabash Trust is a small NGO which works alongside Calabash Tours. It’s an independent entity, which has a separate governance structure to Calabash Tours and is legally registered as an NGO. Calabash Trust is specifically used to leverage Travelers Philanthropy opportunities, and has at its core, a vision for schools that are at the centre of township communities

Role of each:

Calabash Tours has the experience and resources to provide transport, accommodation, orientation and social context and in conjunction with Calabash Trust facilitate the programmes. As a social enterprise, located within the tourism community, but with a strong pro poor and development focus, we are able to provide tourism services, as well as developmental input and years of experience. With 13 years of development experience, and using visiting individuals and school and university groups as a resource to serve both the interests of the visitors, and the community.

Calabash Trust as an NGO focused on capacitating schools as centers of learning for the past 10 years is well equipped to leverage community partnerships and provide direction in terms of relevant projects. It is engaged with numerous other NGO’s and community initiatives in the region.

Key Challenges to success

  • Effective Understanding of Community Needs and Assets

In order for there to be any real value in the community experiences for students, there needs to be an affective understanding of the communities and structures within those communities. Relationships of trust have to be in place, in order for the students to have any real opportunity of making impact within the programme.

  • Understanding of Students skills, and expectations

Students may come from different faculties, with different skill sets, so any programme of this nature will need to be structured and facilitated specifically to enhance learning, and create opportunity for maximum possible impact. Programmes cannot be a “one size fits all model. Programmes cannot be created as a “once off” but need to be part of an ongoing development programme. The purpose of the involvement of the Calabash Trust is specifically there to give guidance in terms of identifying relevant engagements that form part of a more systemic approach. However, it needs to be appreciated, that the student interactions within the community are limited in impact by the duration of stay, the level of skills, and the needs of students to also be focused on their own academic pursuits. Once that is considered, and understood, it allows for a realistic set of community expectations to be created.

It has been the experience of Calabash Tours and Calabash Trust that involving international school and university groups give rise to a series of “soft benefits” that must also be considered. Schools and community projects that have participated in these programmes have brought a great sense of strength, encouragement and recognition to the community and schools. The local learners themselves begin to see the world as having options and opportunities beyond the dusty townships. The opportunity to engage with young people from other countries builds a sense of being part of a global world, and not simply being forgotten. Interconnectedness is a cornerstone of sustainable development.

In addition to this, the bringing together of people from different backgrounds and experiences in itself leads to a greater understanding of a common humanity, which is desirable. Poverty and the real life issues our communities face build a human face of poverty for visiting students. Poverty and its impacts are no longer understood only from an academic perspective, but rather unpacked, and often it is found that within the material poverty, there is also a wealth of culture, heritage and community relationships. This allows for a layered and more complex understanding of poverty to be developed for visiting students.

  • Community and Students expectations must be realistic.

Both the applied learning and possible impacts expected from students need to be realistic. In addition, community partners need to be clear as to what can be expected. In order for this issue to be effectively managed, trust in the facilitation team which serves as the link between universities and the community is critical. A knowledge of the issues on the ground, the context of the communities, and clearly identifying what is possible and realistic requires an in depth knowledge and relationship of role players.

International Universities

Currently Calabash has relationships with numerous UK and USA based universities, among the SheffieldHallamUniversity, PotsdamUniversity, College of St Johns, College of St Benedict, University of East Illinois, among others.

As has been stated, effective partnerships with International Universities could assist in the vision of creating meaningful learning experiences for international students, while at the same time assisting in the development work of Calabash

  • Using student teachers to share new methods with existing teachers. Through team teaching methods, a skills sharing can occur.
  • Social work students can assist in the development of effective strategies for schools to manage the impact of AIDS orphans, sexual abuse, counselling methods
  • Early Childhood Development Practitioners can assist in developing and implementing, through modelling better learn through play strategies in ECDC’s
  • Social Science students can assist in developing strategies for parent engagement within schools
  • Business Students can assist at looking at strategies for developing LED within communities, using schools as the anchor.
  • Public Health students can support and share skills with home based carers in communities
  • Business students can assist in developing business plans for community enterprises

These are examples of what has been done, but each placement has to be researched to ensure community impact, as well as the desired learning and service as stipulated by the visiting university.

Due to the on-going involvement of Calabash Tours and Calabash Trust within communities, the programmes run with Universities do not exist for their own sake, but rather dovetail with the already on-going work of the social enterprise, and the NGO. From a sustainability point of view, it then also allows for follow ups, and monitoring and evaluation of university involvement programmes. The skills and resource deficit in the townships of Port Elizabeth is such that, if well implemented, these programmes can only but be of benefit to local communities.