An award of R500 000 given to the Ukwanda Centre for Rural Health – specifically for the service learning programme at the Avian Park Service Learning Centre (ASLC) – will ensure that this crucial service is continued.
The ASLC offers basic healthcare to the low-income community of Avian Park on the outskirts of Worcester, and also provides opportunities for learning to the undergraduate students of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University. Many health services and service learning initiatives have been developed by students in collaboration with different stakeholders.
As there is as yet no clinic in Avian Park, undergraduate students offer multidisciplinary services (medical, occupational therapy, speech-language and hearing therapy, dietetics and physiotherapy) to this impoverished community.
Another exciting development is that the Western Cape Health Department has indicated that it wants to provide additional service in Avian Park – with the ultimate goal of starting a clinic. Ukwanda will then collaborate with the province, says Prof Ian Couper, director of Ukwanda.
According to him, it could, however, still take years before this clinic becomes a reality. That is why this financial injection, which is given in conjunction with the Discovery Foundation Rural Fellowship Awards in the institutional category, is so welcome. In short, as a result of it, the Avian Park Service Learning Centre will be able to continue their services until Avian Park has its own clinic.
The Avian Park Centre has a longstanding relationship with the community, and works closely with local community health workers. “The students go into the community with them, and identify patients,” according to Couper.
According to Ms. Lindsay-Michelle Meyer, co-ordinator at Ukwanda, there is also close collaboration with the Worcester District Hospital, situated approximately 7km from Avian Park, and also with the local clinics in other parts of Worcester. These clinics refer people, especially those with chronic diseases, to the Avian Park Centre. Inhabitants of Avian Park can therefore get their medication in their own area, rather than having to collect it at a clinic situated further away. Among other people who benefit from the Service Learning Centre are children with developmental challenges, and disabled people who can join support groups.
As a result of the partnership between SU, the provincial health department, the Boland Hospice and the Avian Park community, the ASLC community involvement is expanding, community members are being educated, and community-based learning opportunities are available to health workers, says Meyer. For students there are opportunties for transformative learning and reflection in a contextual rural environment, which helps to prepare them for the challenges of providing rural healthcare.