South Africa, often referred to as “The Rainbow Nation,” is celebrated for its rich multiculturalism and multilingual diversity. This diversity has evolved from a tumultuous history marked by Apartheid, the formalized system of racial segregation. Since the dismantling of Apartheid in 1994, South Africa has made significant strides in enhancing its infrastructure, education, economic opportunities, and healthcare services for underserved populations. Before the end of Apartheid, the majority Black population in South Africa had limited access to healthcare. Today the country’s healthcare system provides free or low-cost care to a significant portion of the population. Notably, South Africa has implemented innovative strategies for HIV/AIDS prevention and care.
Travel to Cape Town, known as the “mother city”, and one of South Africa’s most picturesque urban centers. Cape Town is the second most populous city in South Africa. Here, you will gain firsthand insight into the daily healthcare challenges faced by the newly established healthcare system. This program provides an in-depth look into the healthcare system and the most pressing healthcare challenges in South Africa. Choose to rotate at either a large public hospital or at a pediatric hospital specializing in trauma care; shadow local healthcare personnel to learn firsthand about determinants of health and novel approaches to meet the health needs of Cape Town’s population.
Explore the beauty of Cape Town while immersing yourself in South African culture by staying with a host family. During free time, participants can visit historical sites such as Robben Island and organize weekend trips to the Paarl and Stellenbosch regions or tour the Peninsula to visit the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.
Cape Town is located on the southwestern coast of South Africa, near Cape Hope, the southernmost point in Africa. Flanked by the magnificent Table Mountain on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, the natural beauty in and around Cape Town is awe-inspiring. With first-world infrastructure, it attracts tourists from all over the world for its natural beauty, history and famous places such as Table Mountain, Robben Island, and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. The city also boasts fascinating museums, lots of culture and art, and some of the country’s best beaches.
One of Cape Town’s hidden gems is the warmth of its people. The diversity and Cape Town’s ethnic make up speaks to its history as a main port of entry to the southern tip of Africa – Malay, Blacks, Whites and other mixed nationalities. It is knows as the capital of the mixed race, also known with the South African term “coloured”, who speak their own language (Afrikaans- a sister language of dutch) and have their own cultural practices. As with most South African cities, Cape Town is structured according to class, the richest being closest to the city center and the poorest being the furthest away.
The major languages in the Western Cape include Afrikaans, English, Xhosa and Sotho. English is spoken by almost everyone, even if it is their second or third language.
Program participants will find their home away from home in carefully selected homestays, screened by CFHI Local Coordinators in Cape Town and following CFHI’s health and safety guidelines. Nestled within a middle-class suburban neighborhood in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town, these homestays offer the perfect blend of comfort and authenticity. In some cases, CFHI scholars share a house or a room in the same homestay with fellow program participants.
Going beyond mere lodging, staying with a local South African family provides a unique opportunity to learn about the local culture. Accommodations include two meals per day. At the welcome orientation, participants will be instructed on culture and work etiquette to have the best experience in both homestay and the health settings.
Participants should arrive in Cape Town, South Africa on the program start date. They will be picked up from the airport by a CFHI representative and taken to their homestay. A welcome orientation will take place the Sunday after arrival.
Visas are not required for U.S. citizens staying less than 3 months in South Africa. More information on travel and logistics will be provided by CFHI after acceptance into the program.
Uniquely, 60% or more of CFHI student program fees go directly to the communities they will be visiting, benefiting the local economy at large and specifically underserved health systems.
A typical day in a CFHI program is a blend of immersive learning, cultural exploration, and personal reflection. Participants begin their mornings with breakfast at their homestays. Clinical rotations will usually take place five days a week, for 6-8 hours each day, generally from 8 am to 4 pm. Transportation will be provided to and from clinical sites. The clinical site assignments and schedule are shared by the local team upon arrival. Dinner will be served by the host family in the evenings. Weekends are free of program-planned activities.
Be advised that South Africa is experiencing frequent scheduled power outages (known as load-shedding). Power outages do not affect clinical rotations, and outage schedules are generally known in advance so that South Africans and visitors are able to plan accordingly. This means that there are likely to be times each day when electronic and communications devices cannot be used and flashlights/backup power sources will be utilized. Hot water may also be affected during load-shedding hours. We suggest coming prepared- bring books, cards, and conversation skills to develop your host family relationships during these outages.
Cape Town has some of the worlds most beautiful and interesting sights. CFHI participants have free time most evenings and weekends, and may choose to organize weekend trips to nearby destinations and take part in cultural activities offered within the city of Cape Town itself.
During the first few days in South Africa, participants may have the opportunity to participate in an educational day-long tour of Cape Town, focusing on the history of Apartheid. By visiting the Apartheid museum and the various neighborhoods that were razed and its inhabitants forcibly removed because of their race, history is not something that is just in the books, one can see first hand how it has shaped every facet of daily life for millions of South Africans.
This program provides an in-depth look into the healthcare system and the most pressing healthcare challenges in South Africa. As a participant, you will either be placed at the Secondary Teaching Hospital or the Children’s Hospital, where you will rotate for the duration of your program. After acceptance, students can indicate any preferences on their application. The local team does their best to accommodate learners’ preferences, based on local availability and conditions.
This secondary hospital falls under the Provincial Health Department and the University of Cape Town. The hospital has 158 inpatient beds and serves a population of approximately 47,000 per year. 50% of their patients are uninsured, and are served at low cost, and they also see patients with private insurance. CFHI participants will rotate in the Internal Medicine department. Pediatric Department rotations may also be available. Each of these departments has a head physician who will act as preceptors for the CFHI program. Because students will be rotating at one facility, students have an excellent opportunity to develop a familiarity and rapport with patients and staff. This allows participants to get a more in-depth understanding of the complexity of South Africa’s healthcare system in the context of this secondary hospital.
Though the principal task of this hospital is to provide care for the children of Cape Town, the hospital also serves as a regional and national referral base for many specialties. The hospital is a leader in trauma and pediatric surgery, while promoting preventative child safety. The Trauma Unit has two operating theaters (operating rooms) and the Outpatient Service Unit has three operating theaters.
Participants will likely rotate in the trauma unit, where they will have the opportunity to witness the various medical techniques used in pediatric trauma, including: radiological imaging, total body digital imaging, emergency ultrasound and abdominal sonography, laparoscopic surgery and non-operative management of abdominal and brain injuries.
The local Medical Director oversees and arranges all clinical and public health-related activities and is also responsible for coordinating healthcare and emergency services for participants as needed. They coordinate a cadre of preceptors who mentor and supervise program participants at clinical health sites.
The Medical Director in Cape Town is Ms. Avril Whate, a Certified Nurse Practitioner who has been working in Cape Town for over 20 years. Ms. Whate has an extensive background in trauma nursing, midwifery and nursing management, managing a primary healthcare facility and community projects. She has been Medical Director for the Cape Town CFHI program since 2004.
Avril enjoys working with CFHI students because it allows her to learn about “global health concerns, its values, but most importantly, the impact it has on communities and individuals alike.” She will be responsible for your weekly medical education and will work to arrange your clinical rotations according to your level and interests. When she is not working, Avril enjoys traveling.
The CFHI Local Coordinators manage the logistics of housing, transportation, and cultural immersion throughout the program. They are a valuable resource for any questions related to navigating the program locale, cultural norms, and tips on planning weekend travel. CFHI’s Local Coordinator in Cape Town is Ms. Marion Williams. Ms. Williams has an extensive network of wonderful host families and coordinators that will make participants’ stay in Cape Town unforgettable. As a native Capetonian, she is a great resource for questions related to navigating Cape Town. Marion has been a part of CFHI since 2003 and also worked as an Artist Logistics Assistant for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival from 2002 to 2006. She enjoys working with young people and exploring different places in South Africa. She has extensive experience hosting visitors from other countries for various conferences, tours, and educational programs, so she will ensure you have a smooth cultural adjustment.
This CFHI program is ideal for participants who are 19 years of age or older, who have an interest in fields related to pediatric & child health, hospital & inpatient medicine, primary health care and communicable diseases. You do not need to be a student to be eligible for this program; mid-career professionals, GAP year learners, and others are also welcome. This program will provide an in-depth overview of pediatric & child health, hospital & inpatient medicine, primary health care, and communicable diseases in South Africa through rotations within hospitals in Cape Town. To confirm your eligibility, please read CFHI’s general eligibility requirements.
“CFHI is an amazing organization that does an excellent job melding a learning experience with assisting global communities. I’ve been a part of many nonprofit organizations and CFHI is by far one of the most organized and thought provoking. As a volunteer in both South Africa and India, I felt well immersed and blended into the local communities” Read More
Hear back from CFHI team
Complete pre-departure training and requirements