Nikki Vermeulen

Hi. My name is Nikki Vermeulen and I am me.

By qualification I am an Occupational Therapist and I work at the Occupational Therapy Department at the University of the Western Cape in Bellville, Cape Town.

I am an educator not only in growing and training students to become occupational therapists but also to be socially responsive and culturally sensitive citizens as well as advocates for the rights of disadvantaged individuals, groups and communities. My primary focus in occupational therapy education is around community based practice and community development in addressing the social injustices experienced by the communities we serve.

I am passionate about the process we engage in when working with communities and in engaging in community entry, asset based community development (ABCD) and conscientisation to mobilise and build the capacity of communities to address their own OFI’s (Opportunities For Improvement). As such, my area of focus around health activism is based on working with communities to address their experiences of disempowerment, apathy and helplessness that is often compounded by institutions, organisations, businesses, and professionals taking a needs based approach when working in communities. When the focus is on what is wrong in the community and in the provision of a service to address what is wrong, communities tend to rely on that service and not on what they are capable of, in addressing the root cause of what is wrong.

I am currently engaged on my PhD, where I am looking at developing strategies for community development in the implementation of community based programmes, as well as building up my publication record in the areas of community development, community entry, ABCD, as well as teaching and learning.  What I aspire towards is the establishment of a consultancy organisation that provides monitoring and evaluation support to NGO’s or CBO’s. In my experience, I have found that there are so many organisations that all aim to address various forms of social injustice within our communities. What I have also observed is that many of these organisations do not work together and do not include the community, or the resources of the community, in their community initiatives. I believe that providing support to organisations will create, or enhance their synergy and their capacity to best address social change. Being an activist and building up my skills in health as well as social activism is an ongoing developmental process that I will continuously strive to engage in.