July 20, 2015
Students Travel to Southern Africa to Learn about Religion, Gender and the Region's AIDS Epidemic

For two weeks in May, 10 students along with Assistant Professor of Psychology Clare Metha traveled with Assistant Professor of Theology + Religious Studies Laurie Johnston to southern Africa for Johnston’s service-learning and travel course “Southern Africa: Religion, Gender and AIDS.”

For two weeks in May, 10 students (eight from Emmanuel and two from neighboring Colleges of the Fenway schools), along with Assistant Professor of Psychology Clare Metha traveled with Assistant Professor of Theology + Religious Studies Laurie Johnston to southern Africa for Johnston's service-learning and travel course "Southern Africa: Religion, Gender and AIDS."

During the regular semester, this course examined the interplay between religious, culture and gender as they relate to HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region, with a focus on how religious communities are both an obstacle and a resource in combating the epidemic and the factors contributing to it.

In a post-semester reflection paper, psychology major Angelina Rogers '17 expressed that she was determined in enroll in the course and participate in the trip after hearing about it during her Emmanuel Orientation. Rogers described the semester-long class as "intense" but also a fulfilling educational experience.

"With the people in the class, we were able to participate in real and emotional conversations [about things] that had happened in South African history and in the present of our home, America," Rogers wrote. "We discussed controversial topics from the HIV/AIDS epidemic to human rights around the globe. I can honestly say that class pushed me to places of understanding and learning that I haven't been pushed before. At 1:15 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday, I left that class feeling more conflicted than the previous class, and [it] wasn't because I didn't understand. It was because I now understood immensely."

During the travel portion, which took place this year from May 14th-May 29th, the group first traveled to Mbabane in Swaziland - a country that has one of the highest infection rates of HIV/AIDS in the world, with a total of 29 percent of the adult population infected with the HIV virus and consequently, a high percentage of orphaned children.

Partnering with the Ubuntu Institute's Exposure Exchange Programme, students spent five days serving with Swaziland's El Shaddai Ministries' Children's Home. There, students assisted with repair and painting projects, building and setting up the orphanage's library and planting, as well as spending time getting to know and playing games with some of the home's 80+ residents. Margie Brewer, a staff member at El Shaddai, sent a message to Emmanuel's Office of International Programs following the group's return, expressing her gratitude for the work Emmanuel students did.

"As a team, they accomplished very much in only five days," Brewer wrote. "We now have a wonderful vegetable garden, beautiful mural with the children's handprints, the alphabet painted on bedroom walls, an organised library with many ag- appropriate books, and several items of clothing that were mended.

"The team showed genuine care and patience with all the little ones. Each of the children and staff were given individual, thoughtful gift bags which made them feel very special. The relationships formed between the team and the children are remarkable and will have positive lasting effects."

While in Swaziland, the group was also able to visit the Swaziland National Museum, King Sobhuza II Memorial Park and Swazi Cultural Village in the Mantenga Nature Reserve.

After departing Swaziland, students and staff traveled to Johannesburg. There, students spent a morning with Sonke Gender Justice, an organization that works across Africa to strengthen government, civil society and citizen capacity to promote gender equality, prevent domestic and sexual violence, and reduce the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS.

During this discussion, Rogers learned that unless the unbalanced gender roles change through both a shift in community norms and government policy and law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic will continue to spread through underrepresented populations.

"The extreme poverty in Swaziland makes HIV/AIDS difficult to prevent and to provide help for due to the limitation of resources and money," Rogers wrote. "As much as I appreciate the people of Swaziland keeping their [cultural] traditions strong, many of these aid to the epidemic. Women need to feel supported and that they have the right to say no...During our conference with Sonke Institute, they talked about how their company isn't based on women empowerment but on getting males involved in empowering women. I really appreciated this approach because women need the support more than ever to take a stand for their rights and against this deadly disease."

The group was also able to visit the urban area of Soweto, the Hector Pieterson Museum, Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, the Apartheid Museum and an animal sanctuary, as well as meet with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Johannesburg.

For more information on travel courses, please contact the Office of International Programs.

Southern Africa: Religion, Gender and AIDS :: 2015

Explore Emmanuel

Research Spotlight: Searching for an Evolution Solution

Propelled by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, students and faculty in the Mathematics Department are studying the rate of evolution in spatially structured populations using evolutionary graph theory, which may inform the estimation of important events in our evolutionary past, such as when humans split from our closest primate relatives.

Learn More
Learn More
Research Spotlight: Powerful Partnerships

In collaboration with Emmanuel graduate, Kierstin Giunco ’17, Associated Professor of Education Christine Leighton and current student Kayla Balthazar '20 are working with local elementary students to deepen reading engagement and comprehension.

Learn More
Research Spotlight: Economics Education on a Global Scale

As her research in economics education has focused on innovation in the classroom and finding ways to help students apply economic theories to real-world situations, students are vital in every aspect to Associate Professor of Economics Rebecca Moryl’s work.

Learn More
Eileen Milien '22: A Career-Affirming CURE

When choosing a college, Eileen knew two things for sure—that she would be able to get to know her professors and peers and that she wanted to be in an area in which she would have myriad opportunities in the research and medicine.

Learn More
Melissa Duffy '20: Artist and Appreciator

When Melissa started at Emmanuel, she chose what she believed to be two separate and distinct majors—studio art and history—to fulfill her both her personal and professional interests.

Learn More
Kai Uehara '20: Social Justice Scholar

Kai has always had the inclination to try to make any situation better. When he was searching for colleges, Emmanuel's social justice mission resounded deeply with his ideals of supporting those who need the help.

Learn More
Robert Columbus '20: The Idea Man

Robert’s interest in the workings of the wider world grew in 2011 as the Arab Spring became international news. “I love history,” he said, “so knowing the history of the states as well as their current affairs made their actions and interactions much more interesting to me.”

Learn More
Jake Hill '20: Seeing Citizenship with a Capitol C

Growing up in a suburban town outside of Boston, going to college in the city had always been a goal for Jake. After touring Emmanuel's campus he felt it had the perfect mixture of “small campus feel and big city appeal.”

Learn More
Learn More
Jessie Wang '19: Head of the Class

What began as an on-campus job in Emmanuel's student center transformed into a new career path for Jessie, one that brought her to Harvard University as a master's candidate in higher education administration. 

Learn More
Learn More

Let's Get Started.

Emmanuel is a place where students broaden their sense of what’s possible and prepare for inspiring careers in an ever-changing world. Be here.