About the Free State

I have been so lucky to work with Alzheimer’s South Africa in their Bloemfontein location. Bloemfontein is the main city in the Free State, which is a province getting the name from when the British attempted to colonize the land, and is surrounded by rural areas like Botshabelo. What first made me interested in Bloemfontein was a Dementia research group, the 1066 Project. The 1066 Project is a group that goes to remote regions in the world and does studies on populations to see the prevalence of dementia. In this particular area, there was a high level of dementia due to the lifestyles of people, bad diet mixed with alcohol and drug dependence, living in the townships. They mostly did their study in Botshabelo, and the results led to quite a wide scale awareness of the disease. Townships are densely populated lower income areas where at one point, “colored” or biracial people along with black people were forced to live in due to segregation in South Africa. Now, all over South Africa as well as many other Southern African countries have these large communities that people choose to live in because that is where they were raised and generations before that. Bloemfontein is mostly made up of Afrikaans people, who speak the language Afrikaans and are mostly white. It also has a large population of Sotho, pronounced Sue-tew people, who are black and generally live in the townships. While there I spent time in two facilities; one Afrikaans and one Sotho, also in two homes; both in townships and with one very special traditional healer, or rather widely known as a witch doctor. A very special note to add, is the work Alzheimer’s South Africa does in the Free State. With a huge lack of resources and funding they still manage to make a huge impact. While here, I learned of some communities, traditional healers make their followers believe that Dementia is a curse and those that have it are witches so they are either burned alive or cast from the village. It is absolutely devastating, and they work very hard to educate the healers and I was lucky to meet one that understood Dementia and as a passion to spread knowledge to other healers.