2016 International Field Program: Updates from South Africa and Cuba

Published on July 11, 2016

Launched in 2002, the International Field Program (IFP) is an important and popular program for students, merging practical field experience with theories studied in the classroom. This year, IFP students are stationed at six sites around the world, including Havana, Cuba and Cape Town, South Africa and are working with local organizations on a wide range of projects, addressing pressing issues in their communities.


Students have traveled to South Africa to participate in the IFP since 2007. This year, students are working with Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and the African Centre for Cities (ACC) on various urban development projects in Cape Town.

SDI is a network of community-based organizations operating in 33 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America that serve the urban poor.. Each organization mobilizes urban poor communities to build voices and collective capacities.

The ACC operates as an interdisciplinary research and teaching program at the University of Cape Town, and is dedicated to understanding how to create more, and better, opportunities for human flourishing and ecological care..

Each IFP student works with both SDI and the ACC in different ways—each student is assigned a group for SDI-related work, alongside individual projects that each student completes for the ACC.

The South Africa IFP 2016 students in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo Credit: Emily Haas

Sibabalwe Mona (who goes by Siba), an SGPIA student and native South African, returned home this summer with the South Africa IFP student contingent.

For her group project with SDI, she is working with the organization’s financial organ, uTshani Fund, which assists communities in financing and building houses in South African informal settlements. The fund has been involved in the building of about 13 thousand houses since 1994. “The work is challenging but rewarding, and although the winter rain is not ideal, we can’t complain,” writes Siba, in a recent email correspondence.

In addition to Siba’s group, there are two other student group projects working with SDI. One group is dedicated to improving community health by promoting clean cooking stoves in Cape Town slums. The other is working with SDI’s “Know Your City” program, which operates in and for slum/informal communities around the world. The students are generating a report of SDI activities worldwide carried out as part of in their 20th anniversary celebrations.

For their individual projects with ACC, each student has been assigned a Cape Town NGO to profile. Their cumulative contribution will result in the creation of an NGO network to provide donors and/or development professionals with information on the grassroots urban development work in Cape Town.

IFP students on the beach in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo Credit: Emily Haas


The inaugural Cuba IFP was designed to provide students with a more in-depth understanding of international affairs, using Cuba as a specific context. To achieve this, the program is comprised of three components:

(i) Daily morning classes with Cuban students at the University of Havana, taught by leading Cuban intellectuals. The classes provide an alternative viewpoint to neoliberalism on a wide range of subjects: urbanization, the economy, race, gender and sexuality, the environment, agriculture and food security.

(ii) In the afternoons, students visit historical landmarks around Havana to gain hands on experience through direct engagement with projects run by Cuban Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

(iii) A a research project, conducted individually by each student.

Diari Dieye is one of 13 IFP students participating in the Cuba IFP.

Diari Dieye in Havana, Cuba for the 2016 IFP

“So far, we have visited Old Havana (a neighborhood that could be called the core of Havana’s history), The Necrópolis de Colón (the second most famous cemetery in the world after Paris’ Père Lachaise), Revolution Square and the Museum of the Revolution, Callejón de Hamel’s weekly Afrocuban festival, as well a variety of other famous neighborhoods and landmarks in the city.”

For her individual research project, Diari is researching how “the state can better serve the social, economic and political needs of Afro-Cubans in the newly transitioning Cuban economy.” In addition to her research project and the site visits that contextualize the Cuban history the students are learning, she is also part of an IFP student group working with Muraleando, a grassroots, community-based artistic project. “Muraleando artists and volunteers give back to their community by painting beautiful and meaningful murals in Havana’s 10 de Octubre neighborhood and host dance, music and arts classes for the community,” Diari explains.

Some of the students on the inaugural 2016 IFP in Cuba Photo Credit: Rachel Lewis/Facebook
Diari and other IFP students work with Muraleando on a community mural in Havana. Photo Credit: Diari Dieye/Facebook














IFP students were fortunate enough to be invited to the new US embassy in Havana. They met with Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis and had an engaging discussion with him on U.S.-Cuba relations.

U.S. Ambassador to Cuba Jeffrey DeLaurentis invited IFP students to the U.S. embassy in Havana to discuss U.S.-Cuba relations. Photo Credit: Fabiola Berdiel

The 2016 IFP is also being run in Argentina, Colombia, Ethiopia, and the Balkans. Stay tuned for future blog posts on these sites, and in the meantime check out the following feeds for photos and updates from all of their fieldwork:  #2016IFP (Twitter and Instagram), @newschool_IA (Twitter)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.