In 1993, Amy Biehl came to Cape Town to work at the UWC Community Law Centre on issues such as women’s rights, constitutional law, and voter education. In an act of political violence, she was tragically killed by 4 young black men. After applying for amnesty through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the 4 men were released from prison and 2 currently work for the foundation.
As a service learner at the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust I am exposed to a variety of environments and involved in a few projects. In the morning I go to St. Mary’s Catholic Primary School in the township of Nyanga which I work with 12 students in grades 6 and 7 in the Youth Reading Role Models Program. A past Marquette service learner read the first Harry Potter book with the students and they wanted to continue with the Harry Potter series so we are working on the second book, Harry Potter and the Camber of Secrets. In addition to the students taking turns reading aloud, we work on vocabulary, reading comprehension, and character development. The goal of this program is to build confidence and skills in reading so the students can in turn serve as ‘reading role models’ for younger students. I then spend a couple hours in the main office downtown where I plan my lesson plan for the afternoon class, or help with any other project that is going on, or just sit and chat with the staff. After lunch, I go to another primary school, Nomlinganiselo, in the township of New Crosswords to help with grades 1, 2 and 3 in the after school program. We work on the alphabet, numbers, nursery rhymes and educational crafts. The service learner at the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust will be involved with a multitude of experiences. Not only will you be able to see an NGO at work in an office setting, you will also be fully immersed in a township setting while directly working with the youth in the Youth Reading Role Models Program and at the after school program.
As a service learner at the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust there are many opportunities for creative work and new projects. You will have the opportunity to participate in the Youth Reading Role Models Program which involves students in grades 6 and 7 reading to students in grade one. Through their mentorship, the 6th and 7th graders encourage younger students to develop a love of reading and critical thinking skills, while they improve their own reading and leadership skills. Over 23 schools in Cape Town participate in this program, and as a service learner you will teach a special class at St. Mary’s primary school in the township of Nyanga. During that time you will engage the learners, or “Reading Rock Stars” as they have been so lovingly named, in a classroom experience developing their reading skills and also their self-confidence. Some of the past interns have focused on cultural short stories, or even a series book like Harry Potter.
Before the service learner is taken to the other placement they spend time downtown in the main office. It is located in the city bowl and the wonderful staff at the foundation is always willing to go out for a bit of tea during lunch. In the afternoon the service learner goes back to Nyanga to help out with the after school programs at Nomlingananselo primary school. Here there are opportunities to teach computer literacy, art, traditional dance, or a music class. Both school environments are extremely supportive and rewarding to work at because they foster a deep sense of community and are inclusive to the intern. I love going to each site because I feel an incredible sense of welcome and openness to sharing cultural experiences and insights. The experiences I have had at the ABFT have helped me gain confidence as a teacher and also have taught me to see things from many different perspectives. As an Amy Biehl service learner you are privileged to see the multi-dimensional role that an NGO plays and how that presence can impact the community in a positive way by instilling pride, confidence, and valuable skills in the youth of South Africa.
I spend two days a week teaching grade seven children through the Youth Reading Role Models Program and going to the After School Care Program. My class consists of a dozen 12 & 13 year olds and we spend two hours each week together. During this time I have the children read aloud often to improve their English, speaking skills, and to make them more comfortable speaking in front of others. They are supposed to take the skills we work on together in class and teach the grade one students how to read. The After School Care Program is designed to provide the children with a place to go after school so they can stay out of the streets, develop a skill or talent, and have something to eat. The program currently offers violin lessons, modern dance, cultural dance, reading class, and an art class, to name a few.