Towards the end of the German-South African Year of Science, the then German Minister of Education and Research, Dr. Annette Schavan, and her delegation visited HOPE Cape Town on February 7, 2013. The German visitors were hosted at the Blikkiesdorp informal settlement where HOPE Cape Town runs an outreach programme that supports HIV-infected children and their families. During this visit the German delegation was also informed about the collaboration between the Pharmacology and Virology Divisions of the University of Stellenbosch and HOPE Cape Town.
Just before 4 p.m., Rev. Fr. Stefan Hippler, employees of HOPE Cape Town and Professors Bernd Rosenkranz and Wolfgang Preiser from the University of Stellenbosch welcomed Dr Schavan and her delegation of about 30 people from the German parliament, academic and other institutions to Blikkiesdorp. Previously, the minister had attended meetings with local and international enterprises and organisations in South Africa in order to consolidate the scientific cooperation between both countries.
Prof Dr Bernd Rosenkranz, Head of the Division of Pharmacology, and his colleague Prof Dr Wolfgang Preiser, Head of the Division of Medical Virology, both also HOPE Cape Town board members, shared their experiences of being part of a joint German-South African research project on infectious diseases with the group. One project that was presented described how German students had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with diseases common in South African that are rare in Germany. In return, the joint research project allowed South Africans to develop new forms of treatment that had been tested in Germany before.
Rev. Fr. Hippler introduced the non-profit-organisation HOPE Cape Town to the audience. He highlighted the importance of the world-wide network of the charity and emphasised the significant contribution that the cooperation between international medical research initiatives and local communities brings about. Moreover, the catholic priest underlined how the work of HOPE Cape Town’s 30 employees at the Ithemba ward at Tygerberg Hospital and in 20 primary health care facilities in various informal settlements contributes to the fight against the HI virus.
The visibly interested minister and her delegation from Germany were invited to walk through Blikkiesdorp and meet its inhabitants whilst Rev. Fr. Hippler and the HOPE Cape Town community health workers explained to the visitors under which difficult circumstances people live there. Furthermore, the delegation was informed about the severe social problems such as unemployment and domestic violence that mark people’s daily existence. Through visiting HOPE Cape Town’s project in Blikkiesdorp the foreign visitors were given an authentic albeit a little uncomfortable experience of the challenges that people living in informal settlements face on a daily basis. The German delegates enjoyed the hands-on experience as a welcome alternative to the usual power-point presentations that they have to sit through on such visits.