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Village doctor, musician will receive awards from Rhodes

Date Released: Mon, 25 February 2013 15:04 +0200

A medical doctor who moved to a poor Eastern Cape backwater years ago and set up a community art project will receive an honorary degree from Rhodes University for her groundbreaking work fighting poverty and HIV/Aids.

Although she had been out of clinical practice for years before she moved to Hamburg in 2000, talented artist Dr Carol Hofmeyer, who initiated the award-winning Keiskamma Art Project in the seaside hamlet, soon became aware of widespread HIV/Aids problems in the area and decided to help.

Spurred on by the desperate plight of her rural neighbours, who were either too poor or too sick to get proper medical treatment, Hofmeyer went back to work as a primary care medical officer in local clinics. She later established an Aids treatment centre in an old house in the village called Umtha Welanga (rays of the sun).

More than 30 village health workers were trained to cover the area and give support and advice on HIV/Aids. Also, anti-retroviral therapy was provided to care for the sick. Hundreds of children are also being fed daily in one of several related projects.

Hofmeyer and renowned musician and social commentator Vusi Mahlasela will each receive honorary doctorates at this year’s Rhodes University graduation in Grahamstown in April.

Rhodes spokesman Zamuxolo Matiwana said Hofmeyer was being honoured for her significant contribution to upgrading the quality of life of many people in the Eastern Cape and for making a considerable difference to the lives of hundreds of people in the village of Hamburg.

“The impact of her work has not only been in the aesthetic and creative arenas but also in areas that involve generating income, as well as enhancing the health and education of community members.”

Matiwana said Hofmeyer had been struck by the levels of poverty and the plight of women who were unable to support themselves and their children. She established the Keiskamma Art Project as a way of generating income for the community.

“When she moved to Hamburg she had no inclination to work as a medical doctor, but she realised the dearth of medical doctors in the village not only compromised general healthcare needs, but could also be life-threatening.

“Dr Hofmeyer resumed practising medicine late in 2004 and her HIV/Aids-related work has been essential and significant.”

Pretoria-born Mahlasela is being honoured for his role in helping to unify South Africa and contributing to nationbuilding as a social commentator and through the medium of popular African music.

Mahlasela’s songs have found their way onto some high-profile compilation albums.

Written by:  David Macgregor

Picture credit: The Herald