Team Flamingo Reflections

Flamingo’s Final Video:



Team Flamingo with Bus Driver, Lance


Student Reflections:


At the beginning of the application process I knew if I got chosen for Cape Town I would have a unique IQP experience. Talking to past Cape Towner’s all you hear about is how amazing their experience was and that they are obsessed and want to go back. What I didn’t fully understand was just how rewarding it would be and how much I would grow.

Coming back to my friends and family afterwards was amazing, but it meant I had to answer the questions “So, how was Africa?” and “What did you do there?” No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t figure out how to explain my experience. Yea I can say I built a preschool and a playground and that we hiked Table Mountain and went on a Safari, but none of that fully explains it. How do you describe the poverty we saw, the people we met, or the sites we saw accurately? The thing is, you can’t. The best I’ve been able to do is show pictures of Flamingo and our weekend adventures. Although the pictures have helped, seeing it and actually experiencing it are two completely different things. I’m thankful to have not only gotten the chance to share the experience with all 26 of us, but especially with my project group because they are the only ones that will ever fully understand my IQP experience.

Although the adventures and excursions we went on were amazing and unlike anything I had ever done, the experiences I’ll truly remember are those at Flamingo. Looking back on my project I can’t be thankful enough that I was chosen for that site. I can’t imagine my Cape Town experience without Marky, Terrence, Shakeel, Elizabeth, and everyone else we worked closely with. Going into the project I had no idea what it would entail. From an educational and work experience side I developed skills I didn’t expect to in terms of project management, networking, and actual design and construction processes. Looking at the project outside of its educational value and rather in terms of the personal growth it provided is even more surprising. I knew I would grow from this experience but I didn’t expect to this extent. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how I grew, but I can feel that I did. My outlook on certain things has definitely changed. When I first set foot into Flamingo I remember being shocked and confused. I was devastated by the living conditions while simultaneously being impressed by how far they had come in the upgrading process. It became easy to compare Flamingo to the other informal settlements and see how much better off they were and have a sense of reassurance. What was difficult was acknowledging that despite the changes that have been made, the conditions the people of Flamingo are living under are not remotely close to adequate. This truth became even more difficult as we got to know the community on a more personal level. It was hard leaving work each day knowing that we got to escape back to our nice living conditions while they had to remain there. I remember this reality becoming especially evident when we were leaving Flamingo for our last time. Usually when you say goodbye to someone you know there’s still a chance of your paths crossing another time. This time it was different. It’s hard to imagine never seeing those faces again. It’s hard to accept going back to our privileged lives while they remain there. Although it’s reassuring knowing that we accomplished something truly amazing and life changing for that community, it will never quite feel like it was enough.

Reflecting back on the experience brings up a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that’s still difficult to make sense of. It’s hard to put into words exactly what this experience meant to me or how it affected me as a person, but I do know I wouldn’t change it for anything. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and I’m finding that I’ve become one of those annoying Cape Towner’s that obsesses over their IQP experience.



I don’t think any of us were prepared for what we were about to see, hear, feel, and smell…

We stepped out of the van the very first day we arrived at Flamingo Crescent Informal Settlement. My eyes flew open and my nostrils flared at the new sights and smells. Little children running in the street, eating foreign objects off the ground, and running barefoot with broken glass all around. Not a care in the world. They were naïve, innocent, or maybe just oblivious. I knew then that this was the purpose for us and for our project. This needed to change, solely for the children. After that first day I thought long and hard about the future of these children.

Yes I knew our project would revolve around the children and their community, but I didn’t know these people would make my experience one that I would never forget. It is because of their perseverance that we got the crèche and play park standing and without their determination to better their community our time in Cape Town would not have gone as well as it did.

Trying to describe what I learned from this experience has been difficult. I’ve grown to realize that no one fully understands the purpose of this trip. For me and my four teammates, it wasn’t about the grade or the team vs. team competition, it was about much more. Justin, Andres, Kristin, Malina, and I worked every single day to make something bigger than just a physical structure. We built trusting relationships with the community and their children and that is truly what I will remember years from now. Of course I will remember seeing baby elephants cross the road, a lion chase down a hyena, zip lining high above Cape Town, hiking the treacherous Devil’s Peak (ok maybe that was just the route we took), and Tiger Tiger…but knowing we provided Flamingo with hope for a better future for not only the community but their children and grandchildren is definitely the start of something good. Next year when WPI returns to Flamingo Crescent, I can only hope that there are no children playing in the street, and every child under the age of 6 is attending the Little Paradise Crèche. It couldn’t have been possible without many stakeholders, awesome advisors, and a little hope for Little Paradise.



I decided to go to Cape Town because both the projects and the place appealed to me. On paper the projects sound so straightforward and accomplishable. I thought it was a simple build a playground and a preschool. I figured we would get out to the informal settlement and start building. It is not even funny how wrong I was.

Everything is different in South Africa. We talked about the language barrier in ID 2050, and I figured this would be the biggest challenge. However, once we started working, everyone was on board, but each different group and person had a different philosophy, working methodology, and expectations for the project (plus, we had to work around the dreaded South African time). Not to mention the design, budget, and timeframe presented unique challenges to this particular project.

Going from separate groups each sharing different interests in a project to a cohesive group making decisions and somehow accomplishing what we had set out to do seven weeks prior with absolutely no plan was really difficult. However, I think that because each group did not consider failure an option we pulled through and managed to create a system that worked for the project. The entire project was an exercise in initiative and trial and error.

Through my project, I feel as though I have grown to become more decisive. I learned in Cape Town that unless we take action and go to the hardware store or call up Afrisam, etc. nothing would have been accomplished even if we had a great plan. Through all the challenges and exercising all options it brought us very close as a working group. When past Cape Towners had talked about their projects they always said they became like family with the people they worked with. When Terrence made a toast to “his new family” inside the newly built Little Paradise I knew that we had made that connection, but it didn’t feel cliché like it sounded from past groups because I was actually experiencing it.

I’m happy I chose South Africa to complete my IQP. The people and the places are unique. I grew up in California and Cape Town reminded me a bit of home because of the weather and the beach town vibe. However, there was something distinctly “not in Kansas anymore” about Cape Town. There was so much to do. Shark cage diving, safari, zip lining, plus the weather was unbeatable. I was happy I decided to take a chance on a place I never thought I would travel to. Traveling to Europe had always been my dream, however after being in Cape Town I started to think that in Europe there is a lot to see, but in South Africa there is a lot to do. I got the opportunity to experience so many things that I would never have the chance to do in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world.



Before I dive into the essence of my reflection, it is important to note that it is very challenging, almost impossible, to summarize this whole experience and put it to words. These two months gave me a different perspective not only about the world but about myself. I attribute this tremendous growth to the constant exposure to an uncontrollable environment, one that surprised us every single day and forced us to adapt and think on the spot.

I can vividly remember the first day we visited Flamingo Crescent, we all thought we knew our plan and project pretty well – we didn’t. It was until we saw the reality children lived through in this informal settlement that the importance of our project became apparent. Seeing this on a daily basis was saddening, but seeing how the progression of our project began to change children’s lives was very rewarding. Simple changes such as a mural can change people’s attitudes and bring happiness to their lives. From simple additions to a crèche and a recreational area, children in Flamingo have better opportunities for their future. Seeing how several partners, community leaders, advisers, and my teammates united for this cause is definitely the highlight of my experience.

However, achieving this was more complicated than I thought. Frustration kicked in once I realized how hard it was to work with so many partners and communicate mostly via phone – several calls were unanswered and sent to voice mail. As a result, it was hard to coordinate appointments and get materials. Everything went on a different pace in Cape Town, a pace that we had to get used to. Once we did, we became way more improvisational and utilized the resources that we had on-site. Improvising so much made our team more dynamic and allowed us to accomplish our goals under the tight time frame. Our process made me realize that I have to adjust to my surroundings and look for the best possible way to solve problems. I am sure I will remember this experience in the future and I will feel more comfortable confronting challenges.

I am extremely grateful for this experience. I had the opportunity to meet and learn from Flamingo Crescent, my teammates, and my advisers. As I said at the beginning of the reflection, I cannot put this experience to words, but I know it is an experience that I will cherish and carry with me for the rest of my life.



South Africa was a place unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. In one day you could go to the beach in the morning and later that day climb a mountain right next door. It was crazy it was like a postcard in real life. But at the same time you could see one of the nicest cars on the planet drive by some of the worst living conditions this planet has to offer. To explain this unequal distribution of wealth we look towards the country’s economics. South Africa has one of the highest GINI coefficients of any country. This coefficient represents the distribution of wealth in a country. If the GINI coefficient is 0 that means every person’s income is identical. In South Africa their coefficient is very high meaning there is a very uneven distribution of wealth.

It’s been incredibly difficult for me to explain my experience in South Africa since my return to the U.S. It is difficult to explain what I saw and what I did to someone who doesn’t know about the culture and has never seen it firsthand. As I drive through my little town back home I often reflect on how fortunate I am. Down there I witnessed poverty, slums, protests, fights, robbery, racism, and drug addictions amongst other things. Here my biggest worries are getting stuck in traffic or not finding a parking spot.

I can’t help but feeling a little guilty about it. I met some of the nicest people of my life down there and it seems unfair that I have so much more than them. I got my lot in life and they got theirs and that’s all there really is to it. Pushing that feeling aside, I wouldn’t trade my experience in Cape Town for anything in the world. I got to see a whole different side of world and just let it knock me on my ass. I learned a lot about design, construction, history, communication , and about myself. I was really passionate about making sure the project finished and really wanted to encourage the community members and partners that helped us to keep moving forward on the crèche and space even after we left. Everyone involved really pulled together to make sure that place came together and it always seemed like the perfect final touch to the community. It was such a satisfaction seeing it all come together and you could see on everyone’s eyes how much of an accomplishment it was to them.

When I think back on all of my time in the Cape Town by far my favorite part was Terrence. Terrence was a member of the Informal Settlement Network who really made the crèche possible. Terrence was there every day before us and left every day after us. He made sure the walls were up, the roof was secure, the insulation worked and that the floor was straight. He came in on weekends sometimes and was always there for us when we needed him. He was so passionate about making everything work and he always spoke his mind. He was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met and saying good bye to him was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I’ll always remember getting emotional as I said goodbye to him for the final time and him saying, “now I know you are truly my brother.” I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again or what he will do next in his life but I know that’s something I’ll never forget for the rest of mine.