When the clinic is not yet built … the Avian Park Service Learning Centre story
The Ukwanda Centre for Rural Health (UCRH) opened in 2001, followed 10 years later by the establishment of the Ukwanda Rural Clinical School in one of the rural health districts of the Western Cape. This paper relates the journey of the Faculty with the underserviced community of Avian Park through the provision of healthcare services aimed at addressing needs identified by the local community. It attempts to substantiate the meaning of the word Ukwanda, translated ‘to grow’ and ‘develop within the community’ in order to reach the primary goal of being an ‘engaged institution’. The Avian Park Service Learning Centre (APSLC) is the culmination of the aspirations of a number of stakeholders who wanted to respond to the community needs for access to basic healthcare while providing learning opportunities for students. Initially only patients with chronic diseases of lifestyle, tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS were seen by community care-workers (CCWs). Through a number of service-learning initiatives in Avian Park, a variety of health services have developed in the community. CCWs have become teachers, community developers and an integral part of the health service team. They enhance access to the residents, community projects and networking within the community.
The APSLC improves the opportunities to integrate theoretical academic work with practical application, providing students with a unique opportunity to be involved in healthcare service design and development (as active participants, not observers) based on community-identified needs. University and community collaboration has been purposeful and aims to strengthen community engagement, while up-skilling residents and affording community-based education opportunities for health professions.