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Archive for July, 2009

Day Sixteen

This morning Prof. Buske lectured to two different groups of students on the same topics as yesterday.  We have enjoyed interacting with the students and learning more about South African law and culture.  In between classes, we had a brief tour of the courthouses. We noticed the streets were really dirty and covered with litter and piles of trash. Apparently, the municipality workers are on strike, again. The garbage trucks and street sweepers are not running.

Lunch was FABULOUS! We were invited to one of the article clerk’s homes for lunch. His family is Malaysian and his mother prepared a traditional Malaysian feast for us (minus some of the usual spices). She prepared nine dishes for us. Our favorites were the chicken, rice and pasta.  His family was incrediably gracious and welcoming.  

One Stop Child Justice Center

One Stop Child Justice Center

After lunch, we went to the One Stop Child Justice Centre. It is a multi-disciplinary restortative juvenile justice program which recently won a UNICEF award for excellence.  It is a pilot program in Bloemfontein and is expected to be duplicated across all of South Africa in the future.

It really is a one-stop shop.  It includes a police station, a holding facility pending the juveniles first court date, a courtroom, social work offices and personnel, long-term residential facilities, schools and various rehabilitative programs.  It was quiet impressive.  The juveniles are over-whelming male and range from 8-18 years old.  The vast majority of the juveniles committed to the long-term residential facility have been convicted of serious crimes; roughly 85-90% have been convicted of rape and murder. 

The program is committed to restoritive justice — the juveniles are not locked in cells.  Instead, they roam freely in and outside the residential compound.  The staff obviously knew the residents and their histories.  We talked a little about how juveniles are charged and prosecuted in the States – they were shocked and outraged that the US executed juveniles until the USSC Roper case. 

UFS Professor Mariette Reyneke accompanied us to the facility.  She and another UFS professor have been conducting a study on the project and we are looking forward to her presentation to our students & faculty when she visits CSL in the fall.

It was another long and interesting day!

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Prof. Buske lecturing at the Law Clinic

Prof. Buske lecturing at the Law Clinic

We started early this morning.  We were at the law school clinic by 7:45am  and Buske guest lectured in two classes.  It was the first day of classes for UFS students and the attendance rate was about 50%.   No one here seemed surprised about the lack of attendance — they explained that students may take their exams up to 3 times.  If their scores are low, they are permitted to re-take their exams a second and third time.  The “third opportunity” was today and that apparently explained the lack of attendance.  We’re not sure who was more surprised:  we were shocked to hear of 3 chances and they were equally shocked that American students don’t have 3 chances!

The UFS students were much more interested in talking about the US legal system — particularly the role of the jury, death penalty, and the process for becoming an attorney in the US — than they were in the formal lecture.  The discussion was surprising at times — their impression of our jury system is not good.  They seemed to think that it is the primary problem in our legal system and that it does not promote justice.

USF Law Clinic

USF Law Clinic

This afternoon was an adventure!  We discovered Reason #3 that Carol signed the waiver before we left the States!  We went to a small game reserve — a privately owned animal sanctuary.  Jock, aka Botswanian wonder-guide, drove us through the reserve and taught us more about animals and animal poop than we thought was possible.  There were giraffes, zebras, sable, springbucks and a whole lot of other deer-looking animals.  Jock told us that one of the deer-looking animals is near extinction and will be extinct within the next 8 years.  There’s only about 200 left now. 

Game Drive

Game Drive

After the drive, Jock took us to the Cheetah Experience.  Incredible.  It’s a non-profit program that breeds and raises cheetahs and lions.  The first thing we saw was two grown cheetahs in a patio-like area of the family home.  We watched open-mouthed as the staff walked in and around the cheetahs.  Then we walked in and around them.  Seriously.  The cats were huge — they came up to our hip level and acted like big housecats.  They rubbed up against us and when we sat down, they laid their heads in our lap like kittens.  And they purred!  Like lions — you could hear them from across the patio.  It was unbelievable.  The staff told that they cheetahs live in the house with them and sleep on their beds with them at night.

Petting the Cheetahs

Petting the Cheetahs

They had to practically pull us out away from the cheetahs.  We didn’t really want to leave the cheetahs, but next up was the lion cubs.  There were 2 cubs who were about 4 months old.  They were about knee high and very very playful.  We watched the keepers feed them raw meat and then romp around.  We were able to play with them and pet them.  Their paws were the size of our feet and it was clear they could knock you down.  They seemed cute and cuddly, but did growl at us some.  They were playing on a bench and Carol sat  down on the ground below them.  Just as Buske was about to take her picture with the cubs, one of them bit her on the arm.  There was no blood, but some yelping and she jumped about 4 feet across the yard.  Buske’s response was rather inappropriate (she laughed hard!), but the look on Carol’s face was priceless.  She kept saying “It bit me.  Right here on my arm.  It bit me!”  Jock later told us it is not a good idea to sit lower than a lion.  Oh.

Carol and the cub who bit her

Carol and the cub who bit her

As if that wasn’t enough, then we got to play with the baby lions — the really little ones.  There were 3 cubs who were about a month old.  They were the size of a big housecat.  They were pretty sleepy and we could pull them into our laps and they just purred and went back to sleep.

Feeding time

Feeding time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prof. Buske and her daughter, Grace with the babies

Prof. Buske and her daughter, Grace with the babies

After the lion adventure, we went to a local art gallery and had a traditional South African lunch on the lawn.  We were introduced to cooksisters — a deep-fried syrup fulled donut-like dessert.  Definitely not our favorite.

Picnic Lunch

Picnic Lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a crazy day full of once-in-a-lifetime memories.

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Day Fourteen

It is Sunday here. This morning, Prof. Buske and Grace stayed in. Carol went to church with Tarryn, one of the social workers who runs the Aids farm project in Phillipolis which we visited on Tuesday night.  Christian Revival Church is what they call a “charismatic” church.  It is what we would call a “non-denominational” contemporary church. The church is home to over 4,000 members in Bloemfontein alone. CRC has churches all over South Africa and several in England and Australia.   There is a huge choir, a drummer, several guitar players and various other instruments. Carol actually even recognized most of the praise songs. The worship service was upbeat and uplifting. It was really neat to see all the university students active there.

After the service, Carol joined Tarryn and about 10 other students for coffee and cake at the church coffee shop. She really enjoyed learning more about the outreach programs of the church and getting to know the other students.

We spent the rest of the afternoon napping in the sun and catching up on our blog and preparing for the coming week.

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Day Thirteen

AFRICA 1 690Today we slept in a little (8:30am), had breakfast and made our way to the local farmer’s market. It was a a mix between an American farmer’s market and an American flea market. We walked up and down each isle enjoying the sights, sounds and smells they had to offer. There was lots of good foods to purchase: breads, cakes, cupcakes, pastries, vegetables, produce and jams. We ate “potatoes on a stick” and boy were they YUMMY! It was a basically a peeled potato deep fried on a stick and covered in salt.  There was also a selection of cultural items such as wood carvings, pottery, paintings and beaded trinkets. Our purchases included a pair of “rabbit hutch gloves” — really cheap, probably made in China, gloves. We also bought beaded items, beautiful pottery, and a few wood carvings. We enjoyed looking at the beautiful flowers and all of the gorgeous baked goods. We selected 3 cupcakes. Two were vanilla with strawberry icing, topped with a slice of strawberry and glitter. The other was vanilla topped with chocolate flakes.

Looking at some of the beaded items

Looking at some of the beaded items

The farmer’s market was quite crowded with rugby fans. Apparently the South African rugby team had a huge game against the New Zealand rugby team. The fans started early, by 10:00am there were more than a few who were already intoxicated.

After the Farmer’s Market, we went to the Mimosa Mall. Looked around a little, purchased a few gifts for our friends here and then had lunch at their version of  “Chucky Cheese.” 

We went back to the guesthouse around 3:00pm and caught up on our blog and email. Then we curled up in the warm covers, watched a little tv, read a little and then went to bed! 

We enjoyed having some down time. We have been so highly scheduled.

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Day Twelve

Summary:  It is still cold.  Maybe even colder than yesterday.  It’s snowing in the village where we were on Wednesday — it never snows in South Africa.

AFRICA 1 684Today was the Intercountry Adoption Conference.  Organized by UFS, the conference was multi-disciplinary and was intended to be very practical.  Although South Africa does relatively few adoptions and almost no intercountry adoptions, it is now considering whether intercountry adoptions are a viable option.  The attendees were law & social work students, lawyers, social workers and adoption agency representatives.  Judge Van Heerden’s presentation was on the relevant national and international law and some of the recent controversial adoption cases.  Buske’s presentation was on intercountry adoption as a form of child-trafficking.  The final presentation was by a local adoption agency — they explained the practical aspects of adoption.  After the presentations, there was a Q&A session during which Carol answered a number of questions about social work best practices. 

AFRICA 1 685We were honored to be included and felt like we came away from the conference with a much better understanding of some of the cultural barriers to adoption here.

Afterwards, we scurried back to the guesthouse, put on every article of clothing we brought, jumped in our beds and moaned about how cold were were.  We didn’t even get out of the bed to eat  our dinner!

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Day Eleven

This morning we spent some time finalizing Buske’s presentation for the Intercountry Adoption Conference which will be held on Friday.

Adrian, our lovely driver, picked us up about 11:00am and drove us across town to meet with the staff at Child Welfare.  Child Welfare is technically an NGO but works so closely with the Ministry of Social Welfare that it basically functions as an arm of the government. The Bloomfontien Child Welfare office receives about 1/2 of its funding from the Ministry and therefore are required to abide by Ministry rules and regulations.  Bloomfontien Child Welfare provides essentially the same services as our Department of Social Services.

First, we met with the department that handles the abuse/neglect hotline,  ChildLine. Unlike, other provinces, Bloomfontien’s ChildLine is 24/7. Child rape is a huge problem in this district. Last month alone, there were over 38 cases of child rape.  Callers include the police, school officials and, sometimes, child victims themselves.  Social Workers are sent out to investigate reports of abuse/neglect allegations and they may remove children if necessary.

Then, in recognition of the fact we were FREEZING (again the windows and doors were open), they put us in a room with a heater and multiple social worker/program directors came and talked to us.  There, we learned more about the programs Child Welfare provides.  We had some very candid and interesting conversations about adoption and fostercare and how race relations and the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa complicates it. We truly enjoyed ourselves and now have a greater understanding of the subtleties of child welfare work here post apartheid.

Then we went on a whirlwind tour of various programs in the city with the very charismatic director, Mariette.  First, she took us by the 10 Rand House- basically a shelter where homeless individuals can pay 10 Rand ($1.25) per night to sleep and receive breakfast.  Someone later explained that this area has a huge problem with child sex workers.

Afterwards, we visited the after school care center. The center was a dream of Mariette’s. Free after school care is provided to local children who otherwise would return home to either no parents or spend the afternoons rooming the streets. Many of the children’s parents are addicts or sex workers. The center provides educational assistance, a safe place and when funds permit, a warm meal. This center receives no government funding. We decided to use some of the donations to assist this program. We donated about $315 which will provide at least 1 meal per day for 3 months for 60 kids.

Our final stop with her was at the place of safety. It is a short-term institutional care for children who have been removed from their parents pending the investigation of abuse/neglect allegations. Although it was an institutional setting, it appeared to be a really happy place. It was colorful, clean and welcoming. The staff and volunteers seemed to genuinely care about the children. Volunteers from the community provide various programs including art and baking classes.

This evening we had dinner with the UFS faculty and the other conference presenters, including South African Constitutional Court Judge Belinda Van Heerden and two directors from a local Christian adoption agency.  We talked about the conference, but fairly quickly digressed into comical cultural hilarity.  The steaks were good, but the company was even better.

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Day 10

After a warm & toasty night (we had ELECTRIC BLANKETS!) on the farm, we were up and out early (again!).   We drove to a little village (we think it is called Phillipolis) where we had a full day of meetings.   Our first stop was a facility for the elderly.  There, we were passed off to Ruth — she runs the outreach programs at UFS.   She first took of us to an HIV/AIDS program in the village.  The program provides education, support services and pallative care.  We met with the director and a social worker in their main administrative building — it was a tiny concerete room with broken windows and a floor and ceiling that had been badly patched in many places.  There was no heat — it was freezing!  Despite those difficult circumstances, we were welcomed and learned a great deal.  They explained that their greatest challenge is the inconsistent availablity of AIDS medication.   The government does “provide” the medication, the problem is that the supply is often interupted and people must go without their medication for weeks or months.  The interuptions in medication are a significant health concern — people must choose between going without or travelling great distances to other areas in the hopes that the medication is available elsewhere.  While theoretically possible, the poverty, distance and lack of public transportation makes such trips near impossible.

 Domestic Violence Center

Domestic Violence Center

From there, we went to a domestic violence shelter.  Again, the phycial facility was very limited – it was a tiny building that functioned as the administrative offices and the living arrangements for up to 5 people.  They explained that due to extremely limited funding (the government contributes very little and they rely on donations for the rest), they generally cannot provide services for victims as long as needed to keep them safe.  The other challenge they face is the reluctance, if not outright refusal, of the local police and court system to involve them in domestic violence cases.  Often, they are not even advised when one of their clients has a court date.

Next, we stopped at a local primary school where the UFS has multiple outreach programs, including music students who work with the school children teaching basic music skills and occupational therapy students who provide services to school children and at the local clinics.   We visited one of the classrooms and were greeted by the children who stood and shouted “Good Morning Madam!”

The 6th grade class we visited

The 6th grade class we visited

We had lunch with the UFS students at their house.  It was a traditional South African meal prepared especially for us by a local catering program supported by UFS programs.  Although we were grateful for the special lunch made just for us, we recognized virtually none of it and ate almost nothing.

After lunch we had a private meeting with the local magistrate.  He gave us a brief tour of the courthouse and then invited us to his office.  We talked about the legal system here and his philospy about juvenile deliquents.  The thing we found the most interesting and surprising is how their legal system responds to what we consider name-calling.  South Africa has special courts — Equity Courts — where aggreived  persons can sue someone they believe has insulted them.  It is not like our slander or libel actions — it doesn’t even have to rise to that level.  Here, calling someone an idiot or the like is actionable.

Then we had a 2 hour drive back to Bloemfontein.  The warmest we were all day was during that drive!!  Back at our guesthouse, we ordered pizza AGAIN!  It is soooo good….even the second time!

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