Cape Town Research Group
We are a group that does social science research and projects in a township called Khayelitsha just outside of Cape Town, South Africa. These projects and the research we do focuses mainly on public health and development.

Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial segregation in South Africa that lasted from 1948 until 1994. During this time, the majority of non-white South Africans were forced out of their homes and made to move into “townships” which were informal settlements outside of the city. These townships are now permanent settlements for Black South Africans even years after the end of the apartheid regime. The effects of apartheid are still evident across South Africa, but particularly in the Western Cape, where Cape Town is located. Many non-white South Africans still live in extreme poverty in these townships, which have not been invested in, and many lack basic public services. Khayelitsha is one of the largest and fastest growing townships in South Africa, especially as more people migrate from the eastern cape to the western Cape for economic opportunities. In Khayelitsha, we work in a neighborhood called Town 2 which is a poor community with a large diversity of individuals with whom we will spend a lot of time getting to know. The majority of Khayelitsha residents speak Xhosa, a native South African language.

Our group has worked in Town 2 for the past 7 years, and has had the opportunity to develop relationships within the community. Currently we work primarily with two groups: a women's health group called Iliso Lamakhosikazi and a group youth (12-30 year olds) called Visionary Minds.

Iliso is a group for older women dealing with chronic health conditions founded with the support of UVA students in 2015. This group creates space for women to discuss and address challenges related to health and community well-being. The women also do beading work together during their meetings, which they sell. Our work with Illiso has recently been focused on facilitating the expansion of their business, and the connection between economic autonomy and emotional and physical wellbeing.

Visionary Minds was formed by student researchers in 2018 after interviews in the community revealed concern for youth in Town 2 to be a major source of stress for the community. “Leisure boredom”, children not having healthy activities to fill their free time, often leads to violent and dangerous social situations. Visionary Minds was founded to provide a positive space for youth to connect to combat this. We hope to bridge the gap between youth and resources in order to build connections with pre-existing support.

Due to the current travel restrictions due to COVID-19, our group has sustained our engagement with Khayelitsha in more unconventional ways. Currently, we communicate with the members of Visionary Minds via Whatsapp and are working to

Current Goals Include
- Hold regular meetings with Visionary Minds through hotspot connections we've established / funded in Town 2
- Facilitate connections between the youth and other contacts even if we are not physically present with them.
- Gain access to more isiXhosa learning resources
- Continue to apply to UVA and UVA affiliated grant opportunities

We are looking for members who are excited to become involved with a long term project and understand the uncertainties that arise while planning international research in the time of a global pandemic. Due to the obvious barriers that COVID-19 has created, no travel will take place Summer of 2021. In Spring of 2021 involvement in this project would consist of grant writing, grant interviews, preparation for the trips (work plans), IRB, and further research development. Fall of 2021 will consist of learning about project involvement, continued grant work, and travel preparations (hopefully) for Summer of 2022. This timeline is subject to change and we seek people who are willing to work with unexpected circumstances as they arise.

If you have any questions please send an email our to our current team members Paige St. John (, Sonja Bergquist (, and Avery Shivers (
Applications are currently being accepted on a rolling basis

Additional resources that may help to contextualize our work:
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Year and (Intended) Major
What are your career goals and / or personal interests?
List and briefly explain any current or former research experience
Why are you interested in this project?
Experience working with cultures/perspectives outside of your own
Given the historical context of colonialism in Cape Town and in Western social research, what role do you believe researchers like ourselves should play in a community like Khayetlisha?
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