Glasgow undergraduates head to South Africa

Glasgow Caledonian students will board the Transnet-Phelophepa Health Care Train this summer to provide care for people in some of the country’s remotest and poorest regions

05 Aug 2015 by Emily McCormick

A group of 30 undergraduates from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) are travelling to South Africa this summer to volunteer on a project providing primary healthcare to people in some of the poorest regions of the country.  

Of the undergraduates, three optometry students will join full-time professional staff travelling 117,000 miles on the Transnet-Phelophepa Health Care Train, also known as the ‘Trains of Hope.’ 

During their two-week placements on the project, Sarah Stevenson, Duncan Preston and Haleigh Gilliam will perform eye examinations and provide eye care advice to children and adults. They will also meet the British High Commissioner to South Africa, Judith Macgregor, as she visits when the train stops in Limpopo.

GCU’s associate dean of the School of Health and Life Sciences, Helen Brown, said: “GCU’s School of Health and Life Sciences is delighted to be involved in the Phelophepa initiative and is honoured that our students’ contribution to its life-changing work will be recognised during a visit by the High Commissioner. 

“This volunteering project gives our students a unique international opportunity and invaluable experience of working with communities as they care for up to 100 patients every day, supported by local clinical staff.”

The university’s five-year partnership with Phelophepa was established in 2014, with 32 students volunteering last year. 

The trains are operated by Transnet Foundation, the corporate social investment arm of Transnet SOCLimited, the largest freight logistics company in South Africa. 

Senior portfolio manager at the Transnet Foundation, Shamona Kandia, said: “Transnet remains committed to promoting an ethos of quality care through a vibrant learning platform providing students with a unique opportunity to experience diverse cultures while bringing the promise of primary healthcare to thousands of people across South Africa each year."


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