U.S. Fulbrighters in South Africa, Featuring Mark Nehrenz

November 28, 2012
Jermaine Jones – Project Manager – Institute of International Education:
The Fulbright U.S. student program in South Africa is by far and away one of the largest and certainly one of the more dynamic and varied country programs in the Sub-Saharan African region. During the 2010-2011 academic year we had 17 U.S. Fulbright students in South Africa. One of the more interesting students that we have had in the field this year is Mark Nehrenz. He is a student who received a Fulbright award to do a film making project.
Mark Nehrenz:
My name is Mark Nehrenz and I am from Norman, Oklahoma and I am here in Pretoria, South Africa on my Fulbright. I was really interested in researching how well documentary videos could work to get South Africans involved in volunteering in organizations in their own cities. South Africa is the perfect place to do it because right now there is a lot of stuff happening in South Africa. It is rapidly progressing as a country and there is a lot of desire for people to get involved. I have a passion for telling stories with video and to be able to come
and do it here, the exact way I have always wanted to, help organizations, is a real exciting thing for me. My Fulbright project is that I am making 6-8 documentary videos, 10 minutes long each, about existing entities of change organizations in South Africa – orphanages, shelters, inner-city outreach programs – South African entities that are doing great work, but don’t have a video to show what they are doing. I go to them, and with the Fulbright backing, say here I am, I will make you a video about what you do, and then do screenings of it
at campuses, high schools, churches, just places to expose what they are doing. Then research how well the videos work to actually get volunteers or donors or any type of involvement at the organization.
Today we are at the Ikunuleku Community Center, it is in an area called Savulkotz, a community center where the tutoring program from one of the projects that I did a video on happens here. In doing the videos when you show up and interview someone and hear their whole
story, you become part of the story, and you want to get involved in it as well. I can’t just interview street kids about tutoring and then not come help tutor also. It has been really neat, you go do a video about a place and you become part of what they are doing.
Thokoza Mjo – Community Organizer – Salvokop:
My role is to organize tutors – varsity students, retired teachers – to come to Salvokop. With Mark’s videos, he was able to communicate what we do, in a way that maybe words would not be able to describe properly. What it captures is the fun aspect of what we do and the personal stories of the guys. To see volunteers coming and saying that I saw Mark’s video and I want to help.
Louis Botha – Volunteer Tutor – Salvokop:
Mark showed various videos of shelters, which he had been involved with, and one of them was Crossroads. Along with that they have the shooting on Saturdays and the fact that they need tutors. The one boy that had been referred to had been a child soldier, that is real life you know. Seeing and hearing that, the visceral affect was very prevalent.
Joshua (from video):
We went to the police and we jumped the fence. I was born in the east of the DRC, Democratic Republic of Congo, and we were taken to the camp. I was there as a child soldier, I spent my two years training in the camp doing horrible things like going to war. Sometime you are just going to shoot, you don’t know where the bullet will go.
Mark Nehrenz:
They encourage you as Fulbrighters to get the full broad country experience not to focus so much on just doing you grant that you don’t live. I live with a community of about 30 South Africans, mainly Afrikaans, so they all speak English, but at home it is a lot of Afrikaans, so I have had to learn how to understand Afrikaans. Fulbright’s goal is to increase Americans presence and impact and involvement abroad. I have really been able to see that because in me just doing one thing it has been able to get South Africans tutoring South Africans. I think my travels in Africa have helped me just see that Americans do have a duty in the world. We have been very blessed and we have had a lot given to us. It is not our job to go save the world, but it is definitely do what we can do, give a hand-out, use our skills and not just pretend that it is not there. That is what I can say that I have kind of learned from this whole experience.