Lauren Lindstrom’s Travel Blog

Lauren Lindstrom’s South Africa Travel Blog

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My South Africa Journey

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am looking forward to sharing updates and reflections about my August journey to South Africa. I will be traveling over a thousand miles to visit Botswana, Lesotho and several communities in South Africa including Johannesburg, Pretoria, East London and Cape Town. My host for the visit is Professor Maximus Sefotho from the Faculty of Education at the University of Johannesburg. Similar to UC Davis, the University of Johannesburg is a major research university with a public service mission and global reach. The vision of University of Johannesburg is to be “an international University of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future”.

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University of Johannesburg Flyer

I just received this beautiful flyer from the University of Johannesburg! The flyer highlights the collaboration between UJ and UC Davis and includes more details about our planned activities in all three countries:

Professor Lauren Lindstrom, University of California – Davis (USA)
Project Title: Transition into the world of work by youth with disabilities
Host: Professor Maximus M. Sefotho, University of Johannesburg

Professor Lauren Lindstrom forged a collaboration that emerged from an award of a Fulbright Specialist (2018 – 2023), to work on the project: Transition of learners with disability and career development for decent work. Career transition is emerging as an inclusive program aimed at people with disabilities. Professor Lindstrom has extensive experience in this field and is poised to share her knowledge to contribute to the sustainable development goals. The collaboration included support for the development of a centre for neurodiversity@UJ by the department of educational psychology.

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Pretoria and the South Africa Department of Basic Education

Lauren Lindstrom and Maximus Sefotho take a selfie together.Today, Professor Max and I were in Pretoria, making a visit to the South Africa Department of Basic Education, housed in an impressive building in the city center. We met with a team of government officials who are responsible for implementing and monitoring services for students with disabilities across the nine provinces of South Africa. This team was very interested in talking with us about career transition and would ultimately like to ensure that all students with disabilities obtain productive community-based employment after completing their schooling. We left the meeting very energized and look forward to further conversations about implementation of these concepts in local schools.

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UJ FM Radio Interview

Radio show flyer for UJ event on August 11 featuring Lauren LindstromMy August 11 radio interview is part of a 20-week series called “Let’s Talk Neurodiversity” hosted by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Centre for Neurodiversity. It will be livestreamed here at 2:15 pm local time—which will be 5:15 am in California, for those who want to get up early to listen! It’s being aired on UJ FM 95.4, a campus–community radio station, and should be available to listen to later as well.

The aim of this series is to reach the community with the latest information about topics such as neurodiversity, autism and ADHD. The recordings and podcasts will become teaching and learning resources that can be distributed to schools, community centres, and families and also used for preparing educational psychology and Bachelor of Education students at UJ.

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University of Botswana

On Tuesday afternoon, we drove about five hours northeast to Botswana. Once you leave the sprawling city of Johannesburg, the roads are mainly two lane (paved), surrounded by low brush and dusty terrain. On our journey, we saw three baboons crossing the road and a small gazelle hidden in the brush. Crossing the border into Botswana is a complicated process! First, we stopped at a low brown building on the South African side to declare our intentions and fill out the required paperwork.

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Camphill Community, Botswana

One of the highlights of our Botswana visit was a trip to the Camphill Community located in the village of Otse, about 30 miles south of the capitol city of Gabarone. Established in 1974, this school serves youth with disabilities with a comprehensive curriculum adapted from government standards and based on respect for the land and local culture. Many of the 160 students live on campus and go home only every second weekend and during the holidays. Camphill programs include Ronkoromane primary school, Motse Wa Badiri vocational training program, and a large organic farm that includes orchards, market gardens, livestock, poultry and plant propagation. The campus also operates a restaurant, garden shop and conference center where students learn work skills.

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Two photos of a sunrise over a body of water.

Professor Max and I stopped in Vereeniging, South Africa on our way to Lesotho. I was awake early on Saturday and had the chance to enjoy this beautiful sunrise over the Vaal River. 

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My UJ FM Radio Interview Experience

Lauren and radio host Sindiswa Ndala stand in front of a UJFM sign

To update you on my radio interview last week on “Career Transition of Youth with Disabilities.” I was interviewed by Sindiswa Ndala of UJFM 95.4, which is a University of Johannesburg radio station. Sindiswa was fantastic. She was an excellent interviewer and very engaging, and she told me after the broadcast that she will think differently now about people with disabilities. You can listen to the recording here.

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Lesotho: Thaba Bosiu Cultural Village

Lauren poses with a horse and a tour guide. We stayed two nights at the Thaba Bosiu Cultural Village in Lesotho. Thaba Bosiu is a sandstone plateau located between the Orange and Caledon Rivers in the Maseru District of Lesotho. 

It was once the capital of Lesotho, and served as the residence and military stronghold of Moshoeshoe I, the kingdom’s founding father, throughout most of his reign in the mid-19th century. In 1967, Lesotho’s government declared the mountain a national monument. 

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Lesotho: Career Transition Workshop

Lauren in traditional hat and blanket standing with two others.

Lesotho is a land of great contrasts. In the capital city of Maseru, the streets are crowded with people and taxis, and there are small roadside booths that sell fruit, meat, and even copy/printing services. Up in the mountains, there are mainly dirt roads and many houses are made of stone with thatched roofs. In the villages, I saw boys and men herding cattle, tending sheep and goats, and also transporting their supplies on donkeys. Apparently, the donkeys are called “King of the Road” here and they get the right of way! 

In Lesotho, Max and I were the guest speakers for a workshop titled “Career Transitioning for Youth with Disabilities.”

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Lesotho: Round Table Discussion at the British Library

A shot of the round table discussion with people sitting at desks arrange in a semi-circle.

On Tuesday afternoon, Lerato Caroline Khutlang hosted a round table discussion [flyer PDF] on Career Transition at the British Library in Maseru. Lerato is a Human Rights Law Specialist and an advocate for women and children’s rights in Lesotho. She did a beautiful job facilitating the conversation, and garnering input from multiple perspectives.

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East London: Fort Hare University

Professor Ntombozuko Duka. Professor Umati Stemala-Zali and Lauren .in front of the Fort Hare banners Max and I were in East London today, a city of about 400,000 people that sits alongside the Indian Ocean. The coastline is rocky here and we saw large shipping boats coming into the working harbor from the windows of our hotel. 

Our hosts for the daylong event were from the Faculty of Education, Department of Rehabilitative Studies and the Office of International Partnerships at the University of Fort Hare. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss career transition pathways for learners with special needs. 

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College Street School

Lauren stands in front of a room talking. Today we drove through city traffic to College Street School, a special school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The school was housed in an older building but the classrooms were bright and clean with colorful posters on the walls. One of the lead teachers walked me around to visit some eager secondary students learning to make coffee drinks to sell to the teachers. Volunteers have built a nice garden area with raised beds and the teachers and students sell fresh produce to local markets.

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Garden Route

A palm tree and various other trees, bushes, and shrubs.

South Africa continues to surprise and delight! Today we drove over the Garden Route from East London to the town of George on the Western Cape. The landscape here is vastly different from the dusty hills and low brush we saw earlier in our trip. 

We were surrounded by lush green hills, flowering bushes, and even pine forests. We also saw orange groves and vineyards and stopped briefly to walk on the sand near the Indian Ocean. My favorite road sign instructed “Feeding Baboons Prohibited”!


University of Cape Town

Lauren and Max standing next to a banner for the University of Cape Town. This week we visited the University of Cape Town (UCT) in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Cape Town is a bustling international city, bordered on one side by the peaks of Table Mountain and on the other by the Atlantic Ocean.


Reflections: Heading Home

Max and Lauren pose together in Lesotho with a mountain in the background.I am back in the United States now after a 28-hour flight from Cape Town to Newark, New Jersey, then on to Denver, and eventually landing in Oregon, where I am living this year during my sabbatical.

This was quite an amazing journey and an unforgettable opportunity to meet so many people and see so many places in Africa.

During our travels, Professor Max and I visited five universities and three special schools for students with intellectual disabilities.

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