SDSU Mundt Peace Scholars Engage in Humanitarian Work in South Africa

Students made impacts during their eight-week service-learning internships in Cape Town.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023
Alisha Alexander was among eight SDSU student interns that spent eight weeks in Cape Town, South Africa immersed in humanitarian work.
Alisha Alexander was among eight SDSU student interns that spent eight weeks in Cape Town, South Africa immersed in humanitarian work.

The William R. Mundt Memorial Scholarship for Cross-Cultural Peace Internships extends a transformative opportunity to San Diego State University students, honing their leadership acumen and cultural competence. Through semester-long service internships that actively immerse participants in hands-on projects alongside NGOs, the scholarship transcends conventional learning boundaries.

The program’s dynamic engagement not only fulfills internship requisites across various majors but also resonates deeply with SDSU's Peace Corps Prep program. As students collaborate with humanitarian and social justice organizations, they gain a profound understanding of global dynamics, enriched by diverse perspectives and real-world challenges.

The inaugural Mundt Peace Scholarship was launched in 2019 with students working in Cambodia. This year, internships took place in Cape Town, South Africa, a city with a rich and complex history that includes colonialism, apartheid and the struggle for freedom and democracy. It is a city that is still grappling with the legacies of its past, while also dealing with contemporary issues such as inequality, poverty and environmental sustainability.

This summer eight SDSU students spent eight weeks with a variety of organizations working to help solve some of South Africa’s most pressing issues.

Alisha Alexander, majoring in public health interned with Lovelife, an organization that promotes healthy, positive, HIV-free living among South African teenagers.

“I have been embraced by the people of Langa like I am one of their own. I have learned so much about the struggle that has shaped the community but the resilience of the people is amazing,” Alexander said. “The fight for a better South Africa flows in the veins of this younger generation.”

Valeria Hutchings, majoring in international security and conflict resolution interned at Lovelife with Alexander. “The most educational part about my trip has been trying to learn Xhosa,” Hutchings said.

Hutchings said that the Mundt Peace Scholarship internship taught her that the fight for equality is different in each country or region.

“When I arrived in South Africa I had an expectation that the history and politics would mostly be similar to the United States,” Hutchings said. “I slowly discovered that race and class are viewed very differently because of the Black and mixed-race majority in the country. “

Hutchings enjoyed meeting new people and she was able to contribute with her creative talents — which opened many doors during the internship and made her feel welcome and appreciated. During a holiday break, she did face painting and drawing with students, “which allowed me to bond with everyone at LoveLife.”

Dana Patterson, a master’s student in health management and policy, and  Chyna Oyola, a master’s student in educational leadership, interned at Ikamva LaBantu, a nonprofit organization that works throughout Cape Town’s township communities towards a more just society where human rights can be fully actualized.

“Being in Cape Town, South Africa I have been fortunate to interact with people in various communities such as Langa, Gugulethu, and Khayelitsha where Xhosa is spoken. Their sense of community is unmatched,” Patterson said. “In the Xhosa language, there is a word, ubuntu, which means ‘I am because we are.’ This philosophy prioritizes the well-being of the community as a whole, something that as a public health major I feel I can understand well.”

“Beautiful is likely the word people use to describe the sights in South Africa, but it is the word I would use to describe the people of South Africa as I have experienced their love, generosity, kindness and warmth,“ she said.

Oyola wanted to come to South Africa to learn about racial equity within the education system.

“In South Africa, I learned how much communities continue to grapple with the consequences of apartheid,” she said. “The racial, geographic, and even linguistic separations between different racial groups here are still clear, despite being nearly 30 years past the end of legal segregation through apartheid.

“Navigating my identities, especially socio-economic privileges I don't have in the U.S., and learning how to communicate professionally in a high-context culture is challenging.”

Darya Ardehali, a humanities major, worked with Senait Hagos, a sociology major at Just Grace, a nonprofit that designs and implements sustainable initiatives to help the Langa community achieve reduced poverty, quality education, economic growth, and equal opportunities.

“Being able to kickstart the Writing and Debating club while interning at Just Grace with Senait Hagos has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life,” Ardehali said. “It truly has been such a joy and an honor connecting with the students on how to build confidence in their creativity and critical thinking skills.

The other Mundt Peace Scholars are:

  • Jesa Miclat | Major: Television, Film, and new Media | Ikhaya Le Langa
  • Daniel Carr | Majors: International Security and Conflict Resolution and Spanish | Ikhaya Le Langa

The public and students who plan to apply for scholarships are encouraged to attend the Mundt Scholars Showcase on Thursday, August 24 at 5 p.m. in the International Student Lounge, Located in the International Affairs Complex, Canyon Crest Dr and 55th St, San Diego, CA 92182 (Next to Lot 12). Returning Mundt Scholars will present their internship experiences and engage in a Q&A.

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