Community Service in Upington

Based in the Northern Cape, along the banks of the Orange River is Upington. Founded in 1884 and probably best known for being an en-route destination to the Kgalagadi Transfronteir Park and Augrabies Falls.  It is 820 km north of Cape Town and 875km west of JoBurg! It sounds like a great mix between urban and rural, quite the typically South African big ‘dorp’ full of interesting history. Definitely my kind of placement (it has a Woolworths!). While on a course recently I met Ingrid, the community service therapist who is currently based there. She was kind enough to share her experience of Upington as a placement:

Where are you currently based?

Dr Harry Surtie Hospital, Upington, Nothern Cape

Where did you graduate?

Stellenbosch University

What made you consider Speech Language Pathology as a career path?

I went for aptitude tests and combined possible career options with my love for languages and where they originate from; together with my passion for and interacting with people, specifically on a one-on-one basis.

What areas of interest were sparked for you during your studies?

Adult Neuro has always been an interesting field – I am just amazed at how the brain can change and grow! It is still a field of interest, but thus far, we mostly have a paediatric case load. We do see some adult Neuro, but very few. I’m still very eager to grow and learn within this field.

Has this changed in your Com Serve year? If so, how?

I have found a new interest in literacy development and would like to further educate myself regarding Dyslexia and reading and writing therapy.

Was your current placement your first choice?


How many Com Serve speech therapists are placed there?        

Currently we are two Community Service therapists.

How many are placed in your district?

For the past two years, there has not been a Speech Therapist in this District, which is a big concern. We have enquired about it, but we still do not know if it is being advertised or if future comm. serves just don’t apply for the post.

How many other Com Serves are with you?

We have two comm. serve Occupational  Therapists and two Physiotherapists working at Dr Harry Surtie.

What is the town like?

It is quite a big town with a city-like feel, but with the heart of the countryside. The residents are very welcoming and people are always willing to help, whatever the situation may be. Upington is a bit far from everything, but one learns to appreciate the town for what it is. The environment is beautiful .

What is your accommodation arrangement?

Initially, they indicated that they would have accommodation available for us on hospital premises, but closer to the ‘move in’ date (If I remember correctly, it was late December), they phoned to ask if we could arrange our own accommodation.  Luckily I had made prior arrangements and organised accommodation myself, just a precaution. For other comm. serves, it was quite a struggle to get settled during the first three months of the year.

What adventures have you gone on?

It is unbelievably hot during the summer, so we mostly spent our time swimming and tubing along the Orange River. There is a Mall here with a few restaurants, which is lovely and we braai with friends over the weekends. When it’s a clear-sky day, we drive to the nearby town of Kakamas, to have lunch or coffee. Augrabies Falls National Park is also a lovely place to visit.

What advice would you give to someone choosing their placement?

Depending what your personality is like, future comm. serves will choose differently, but I would recommend drawing up a list of preferences or doing as follows:

  1. Decide whether you would like the big city life or a smaller close-knit town
  2. Take into account whether you would be able or want to run a department by yourself or not, and choose a hospital/CHC accordingly.
  3. Practical aspects such as travelling time and access to an airport or bus-travelling service played a big role in my decision. It makes it easier to travel to your home town and makes it (in some cases) less costly.
  4. Also, if you know any current comm. serves, it is useful to ask them whether they would recommend their place of work or not and why?
  5. I would also consider placements at tertiary hospitals to get the most from the learning opportunities available.

Ultimately, it is what you make of the experience –  there are ample opportunities for change and growth. Just embrace it!upington2


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