Arriving to South Africa with CSC

Saturday, June 14, 2014

It is very exciting to finally arrive to South Africa for IBM's Corporate Service Corps (CSC) program. I arrived to Johannesburg today, after twelve weeks of preparation. The purpose of the CSC program is to give IBM leaders an opportunity to give back to communities worldwide, a kind of corporate peace corps. During the four week CSC assignment, participants perform community projects at the intersection of business, technology, and society. Our IBM CSC team has 14 participants across the globe. At the same time as helping communities worldwide, the program serves as a leadership development program and makes IBM leaders aware with grow markets and global issues (here is an article about the program in. Blloomberg businessweek

In the afternoon, we visited the Apartheid Museum. A visit to this museum is eye opening, and helps understand and experience what South Africa was like. The country has made great strides in building a society for everybody, but change doesn't always come easy and much remains to be done.

We also visited Nelson Mandela's house, a humble little house on Vilakazi Street in Soweto,
South Africa, where this charismatic and beloved leader lived with his family during the apartheid era.

In Johannesburg

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Johannesburg is a vibrant. cosmopolitan city. Rosebank, where our hotel is located, could be anywhere in Europe or the United States.  Our team, who will be working on the project during the next month, is enjoying afternoon sun, discussion, cappuccino and a tasty meal at Tasha's in the Rosebank Mall.  From left: me, Savi, Wouter and Sanjay.

We also visited a Craft Market which is held each Sunday at the rooftop. We found there some most beautiful arts, beads, masks, statues, ostrich eggs and dolls. After some hard bargaining, I acquired two wonderful African teak masks.

Heading to Mafikeng

Monday, June 16, 2014

Today we left Johannesburg and headed to the Northwest province and the city of Mafikeng. This is where we will be working during the next month.

While the distance is less than 300 km, it took us about 5 hours to arrive. We traveled over a good road through dry savannah, and saw giraffes, ostriches and antelopes. You can see giraffes on this picture too - see if you can find them (I was a bit slow with the camera).

Mafikeng Campus hosts the CSC SA

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Today was our first day at the North West University (NWU), where we will be working during this assignment. Our goal is to create a CoLab (collaborative laboratory) which would get together education, industries and the local government in an effort to increase the level of e-literacy of the people in South Africa, and particularly of the North West province.
In the afternoon, we held a conference with the rector and representatives of the NWU, the iNeSI (Ikamva National eSkills Institute), and with the IBMs CSC team to mark the kick off of our effort.
We presented our plan of action and how we are going to approach the forming of a Colab. After the conference, we had a photo session with all participants.

Here is the press release, check it out to find out more about starting the 7th CoLab in SA at the Mafikeng Campus:

In the evening, it was time for the Birthday celebration, where my wonderful team surprised me with a cake, candles, singing and a goody bag - it was a party to remember!!!

Kisses and hugs to my family - I know they think of me, and wish that we were together today!

North-West University campus in Mafikeng

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The North-West University consist of three institutions that merged: Potchefstroom, Mahikeng and Vanderbijlpark in 2004, and it became one of the largest universities in South Africa. The Mafikeng campus was started locally, initiated by the donations from locals, and has a strong local community flavor and impact. The Mafikeng's campus is bursting with students, and currently there are many exams.

In the evening, we were hosted by the local North West province government officials. We were treated with a tasty dinner and a most educational, entertaining and informative political speech given by  Charles, the new CEO of tourism. We learned a lot about the province's economical structure and outlook for the future, which are invaluable for our task.

We also met the members of the newly formed Creative Department, and the guy behind music for Disney's Lion King, Lebo M. Morake. This South African singer and composer is most famous for arranging and performing music for The Lion King movies and stage productions.

Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba                                         [Here comes a lion, Father]
Sithi uhm ingonyama                                                       [Oh yes, it's a lion]

These famous lyrics are in Zulu, and the music was recorded right here in Mafikeng capturing local sounds and rhythms - now how cool is that?


Sunday, June 22, 2014

We spent the weekend in the Madikwe Game Reserve. This is the fourth largest game reserve in South Africa, and one of South Africa's best kept secrets for safari destination. The park is at the Botswana border, at the edge of Kalahari desert.  The animals are so used to open sided jeeps that we were able to observe from close proximity the most amazing events such as cheetahs hunting zebras, or  lions devouring fresh kill!  This is definitely one of the most amazing and beautiful experiences in my life!

An here is our CSC team with our Park rangers Megan and Dylan.

My team mate Katy also edited a great video of our safari, and has a nice slide show - check her blog.

SABC radio station

Thursday, June 19, 2014

We had a great discussion with Dr Mabe (picture below) who gave us an overview of how the Agricultural Department of the NW University is deeply engaged with the community.  To fight against poverty, they donate eggs of indigenous chickens to small farmers not for food, but to raise chickens, and donating indigenous cattle for the same purpose.

For lunch we were treated with tasty traditional South African food at the local radio station SABC, and toured the facility.  While visiting Benny airing his radio show I sat on a chair which all of a sudden turned into a hot seat. Benny started interviewing me on the spot without warning about our assignment in Africa, and millions of people listened.  Check out what I said. 

Bophelong Special School

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In addition to our work, we made sure that we find time to engage with the community. On Wednesday we visited Bophelong Special School, a public school for severely challenged learners. We spent a fun day with them filled with activities and games. We colored maps of the world together, played games, sung songs, and shared cookies and sweets.

International Leadership and Careers Workshop

Thursday, June 26, 2014

In addition to our main project, as a part of community outreach, we reached out to graduate and post graduate students from the North West University.  We organized an International Leadership and Careers Workshop, which took some late night hours to prepare. From left, Chandra, Sanjay, Effie and I.
University's Student Body advertised the Workshop with this flier.

We talked to students about our technical work, about research in corporate world, emerging technologies, and about the skill set relevant for  workforce today.  After that, we broke down into smaller teams to deeper discuss topics such as emerging technologies, women in business, personal brands and impact of social media. We attracted a large crowd of students who were all very enthusiastic and engaged. By the end of the event, I got a few new mentees.

Check out the coverage of the event from the NWU.

Pilanseberg Game Reserve

Sunday, June 29, 2014

After a hard week's work, six members of the team decided to explore South Africa, and to head to the Pilanseberg Game Reserve over the weekend.  This park is one of the easiest accessible in South Africa, because it is just a two hour drive away from Jo'burg.

This park is just a few miles away from Sun City, Africa's Las Vegas. Saturday afternoon, we headed there, and spent a few fun hours in this Disneyland meets Africa place.

Sunday morning, we headed for another game drive.  We visited the local craft market, where the whole team loaded beautiful African batiks, carvings and masks, and we headed back to our temporary home away from home in Mafikeng.

Designing CoLab for Northwest Province

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Today we held our Workshop with the local government representatives, University officials, and deans from several departments.  This is the most important event in our Team 2 project so far, and we summarized the work we conducted during our time here.  The Workshop sparkled a very interesting discussion. Everybody was very passionate about selecting the direction of the CoLab.

It is wonderful to feel that our work here has impact, and that we are making a difference!  That is why we came here, leaving our families and everyday life behind for one month.

 In discussion with the Mafikeng Campus Vice-Rector, Dr. Lalendle.

Wouter and Sanjay in discussion with Mr. Africa, NW Provincial Commissioner.

Starting with the Workshop agenda.

Thanks to my team mate Aruna for taking these awesome pictures!

Putting it all together

Thursday, July 3, 2014

We have only a few days left to complete our project.  The work intensifies - our work hours start earlier and end later in the day.  Below are the pictures for the Team 2 having a coffee break in the morning, and our late work session (Sanjay, Wouter, Savi & I).

By now, the school year is over for both of my girls. Here Stefanie is receiving her award for Mathematics Kangaroo competition at her graduation - an event that I missed :-(
My family is spread on three continents and in four countries in Europe, Africa and North America now. We are keeping in touch with skype - here Mafikeng, South Africa connects with Yaroslavl, Russia, where my daughter Katharina studies Russian.

4th of July in Mafikeng

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July, Americans in Mafikeng are celebrating!

Our coffee comes with a beautiful smile - the beautiful lady in the cafeteria where we purchase our coffee every morning.

Golf against cancer

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Our team mate Savi organized the team to play golf for a good cause. The contributions are going to cancer research for children. Nine members of our CSC team decided to try for the first time, or to refresh golf playing!
Golf against cancer.
 Savi is a good golf player!
The gorgeous golf course with Impalas roaming freely around.
Nine SCS team members closing on the first hole.
I am enjoying the sunny Sunday.
Followed by late night work - only 2 days to complete the work.
Thanks Wouter for these beautiful pictures.