As CHOSA Regional Director Rob Rosenbaum progresses toward the date of his departure, part of his handover process includes training and transitioning two new CHOSA team members to take up his role. Abbie Heffelfinger and Solitude Dasie officially began work on January 24, 2011 and have spent the past few weeks soaking up all they can about CHOSA and the amazing  community-driven projects we support. Now they would like to introduce themselves to the rest of the CHOSA family….

Hello, I’m Abbie!

I am thrilled to be completing my first few weeks in training as CHOSA’s first Fellow.

I grew up on the east coast of the United States and attended Sarah Lawrence College, just outside New York City. I studied International Development and Social Work and was privileged to study abroad for two semesters. The first semester I was on a comparative urban studies program in India, South Africa, and Argentina and was able to spend my second semester studying development in Uganda. After graduating in May, I returned to Uganda and worked as a Documentation Intern with Save the Children on a public health and family planning project in the central districts of the country. Traveling deep into rural villages I wrote about each element of their project to create a system of community based distribution of contraception. This was a wonderful five months and has already colored my experience in Cape Town. Upon my arrival, Rob and Ellen laughed at my excitement over hot showers, constant electricity and lines on the roads. But I’ve already realized this fellowship will bring challenges beyond creature comforts.

When applying for this fellowship, I was drawn to the ideals of CHOSA’s development perspective as well as the opportunity to work with students studying abroad. I love how CHOSA engages students to consider the potential impact they have upon the communities where they will work and how CHOSA leaves the power of internal organizational decisions in the hands of  the CBOs it supports. I am excited to embark upon this journey with CHOSA.

Hey, I’m Solitude!

I was born in Eastern Cape, Queens Town, South Africa. I moved to Cape Town in 2001 to the township of Khayelitsha, which has become my new home. I’ve been involved with community-based organizations since 2006 and am currently involved with a movement called Soundz of the South (SOS). SOS utilizes popular mediums of communication such as hip hop and poetry to inform, address and create platforms for freedom of expression. We seek to raise awareness about local and global issues.

I found out about CHOSA through a friend who works at Baphumulele. I developed interest when I saw a post requesting that I articulate my understanding of development and NGOs. This has been of interest within my circle of communities because there have been so many conflicting views about the role of NGOs’ intervention within the community. CHOSA is a passion come true. It has offered me the opportunity to work hands-on with the community on issues I am passionate about.

Together, we are excited to be part of the CHOSA team.

Our initial training with CHOSA has been such an eye-opening experience. Visiting the projects that CHOSA works with has helped us realize the importance of organizations like CHOSA, which support locally-driven initiatives. The reception from the people heading these projects has been helpful for us and has served as a reminder of the shoes we are to fill. Rob has done a great job and the relationships he has built with the kids and the organizations are evident. We are determined to work hard to fill these shoes.

As the newest team members, our relationship has been great thus far and we are convinced that we will make a solid team. It’s been fun to discover little coincidences about ourselves throughout our training. For example, we were born three days apart and we share the same Xhosa name. Solitude was given the name Monwabisi at birth and Abbie was given the name Nwabisa during her time living in Langa in 2008. They both mean joy and one who brings happiness. We feel this bodes well for our future.

We have met with all of the projects CHOSA works with and are beginning to develop our own relationships with the individuals at these sites. Finally, we are proud to say we have helped CHOSA establish its very first office. It’s a great space and so far has facilitated interesting discussions and brainstorms of ideas.

All in all, we have had a fabulous few weeks with CHOSA and are excited for all that follows.