2006 Dedication to helping those in need drove Brenda to use her own resources to return to South Africa (April through August 2006). Through a public health program at the University of Michigan-Flint, she undertook an internship with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, and the Presidents Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR). While at the University in Durban I worked with the PEPFAR team organizing workshops to educate Traditional Healers on western advances toward combating HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

2006-2007 - Forming Organization for Cross-Cultural Exchange (OCCE) From February through April of 2007, Brenda Gonzales returned to South Africa for additional research and fact finding. While interviewing the traditional healers in townships and villages in South Africa, and upon further examination of the health issues in South Africa, two areas of need were apparent. First, the lack of access to high-quality treatment due to poverty conditions, and secondly the need for building a sustainable community.

Looking forward it became obvious that without OCCE, Brenda would not be able to continue funding this project, therefore the growth and sustainability of OCCE is necessary to continue research and for the pilot program of adopting the village of Vukauzenzele. Again, the growth of OCCE is pivotal to the traditional healers role in their communities as well as the plan to adopt the village of Vukauzenzele and work with its residents.

March, 2007 - OCCE’s new website OCCE recently deployed a new website for their non-profit organization. The new site, developed by OHMdigital, updates the organizations previous web presence and adds more information.

2007 - OCCE becomes a 501(c)3 OCCE received 501(c)3 status. We are now a tax deductible non-profit organization

December, 2008- January, 2009 - Vukuzenzele Water and Sanitation Project On December 23rd, 2008, our founder Brenda Gonzales will return to the village of Vukuzenzele, South Africa, where she has been invited to help with their water and sanitation needs; OCCE agreed to adopt the village and seek project partners. In January 2009, a group of students in the Kettering University Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) program will join her to assess the situation.

December 21, 2008 - PRIVY DRIVE Please join us Dec. 21, 2008 for a “PRIVY DRIVE” at Christine’s Cuisine to raise awareness for the Vukuzenzele Water and Sanitation Project. We are raising money to help with fieldwork, ground transportation, and lodging for the OCCE-EWB teams. Although we are living in tough economic times, we believe that many in our community will remember that the world-wide recession is especially hard on the developing world, and therefore our action is even more urgent. Thanks for all the support.729 E. 9 Mile Road, Ferndale, Michigan

October, 2008 - OCCE Reception at the FIA Informational reception regarding OCCE’s partnership with EWB at Kettering University on the Vukuzenzele Water and Sanitation Project. The reception will be held at Flint Institute for Arts, 1120 E. Kearsley St., Flint, MI, Thursday, October 9, 2008 5-7.

May 9, 2008 - OCCE seeks partner in the Vukuzenzele Project On May 9, 2008 OCCE presented a video and PowerPoint concerning the plight of Vukuzenzele to the Kettering University Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). The students are interested in the project and are presently working toward submitting a proposal to the EWB international Organization to join forces on the OCCE project.

May 1, 2008 - OCCE seeks partner in the Vukuzenzele Project Thursday, May 1, 2008 OCCE met with Michelle Owens, PhD, Michigan State University’s Associate Director of International Agriculture and Director of International Extension Programs and David Fenech from Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Service -Genesee County. Both were very enthusiastic about the work that OCCE is doing and are willing to partner with OCCE with a health and nutrition agricultural program and possibly an exchange program between schools here and Lourdes Mission School or Cetyswayo Primary.

May, 2008 - Back to the village of Vukuzenzele In an effort of good will and shared interest, Father Stanley Dzuiba from Centocow Mission in KwaZulu-Natal welcomed Brenda Gonzales to the Lourdes Mission 7 kilometers from Vukuzenzele, South Africa. Brenda arrived with a laptop, camcorder, and digital voice recorder to perform a needs assessment as part of OCCE’s pilot project in this small, remote village. HIV/AIDS and TB affect many in the village and OCCE, with local leaders and traditional healers, have come together to gather information about living conditions and to propose solutions to current problems including the plight of orphan children. Father George from Lourdes Mission, formerly a boarding school for many in the surrounding villages and now a ghost of its former past, offered a room at his mission for a very tired but enthusiastic traveller determined to launch a fact finding venture. Necessary OCCE personnel (other partners and volunteers) have been contacted to meet with the principle investigators in South Africa. Personnel included Nosipho Mbanjwa, South African advisor and translator and Vukuzenzele resident,who was asked to contact local stakeholders in Vukuzenzele to participate in a dialoque to determine community needs. OCCE’s pilot program strives to bridge the communication gap between traditional healers, community stakeholders and others who want to help alleviate poverty and address medical problems in Vukuzenzele.

April, 2008 - Building Partnerships As of April 2008 the preliminary fact finding was completed. Upon arrival to the US, OCCE developed a partnership with Kettering University’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and talks began with Michigan State Extension Program in Genesee County and Michigan State University International Extention Program. Another venture to Vukuzenzele will begin in December, 2008.

March, 2008 - Pilot Project OCCE has announced they will begin a pilot project in the village of Vukuzenzele in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa in an effort to assess the effects of poverty on disease such as HIV/ AIDS, TB. Since poverty is a factor for the incidence of disease in developing countries OCCE will be taking in a team to assess the village for sustainable projects that will alleviate poverty. As part of the ongoing project, group members and volunteers from the US and South Africa have engaged in cross-cultural dialogue to gain a worldview via traditional healers. A practice of OCCE, which respects the views and values of those in need, is to interview traditional healers and community members in the village to address their needs. In doing so, OCCE hopes to grasp the circumstances community members face in an effort to help with the survival of the village.

February, 2008 Group spokeswoman, Brenda Gonzales, who is responsible for much of the groundbreaking work with OCCE in Vukuzenzele, reports that there will be a needs assessment beginning in February through the end of April 2008. She also added that a three year plan can then be implemented based on the findings and realized funding. OCCE is a non-profit organization which depends on charitable donations.

October 2009-Implementation of environmentally friendly toilet in Vukuzenzele

OCCE and partner Enviro Options South Africa, implemented the first waterless toilet in the village at the traditional leader's home. Please see Vukuzenzele Project for more information.

October 16-18, 2009-Great Lakes Bioneers Conference at Mary Grove College, Detroit, MI

June-July, 2009- Return of Amy, Ruthie and Brenda from Vukuzenele Amy and Ruthie were given the grand tour of Emaus Mission and Vukuzenzele. More comments on their experience will be in the January 2010 Newsletter.

June, 2009 - Poverty Alleviation Conference OCCE has been invited to present a case study of the Vukuzenzele Project at a conference in Richard's Bay, South Africa. The conference Poverty Alleviation Partnerships & Social Security Schemes (PAPSSS) will be held June 9-11, 2009. It is being hosted by the LWELAPHANDA Business Intelligence Group, Johannesburg, South Africa.

March, 2009 - OCCE and MCDP Partnership Nosipho Mbanjwa, from the village of Vukuzenzele and advisor to OCCE, has registered a Community Based Organization(CBO) for the village with the South African government. This CBO is called Masizakhe Community Development Project (MCDP). The partnership between OCCE and MCDP should assist the village toward sustainability through a cohesive plan that directs the community foward resulting in ownership of the projects OCCE has implemented.

February, 2009 - OCCE returns home from the Vukuzenzele Project While there, Brenda Gonzales met with Dave Pool and Donald Smith, agriculturalists and herbalists, to determine if a medicinal garden would be appropriate for an income generating project in the village of Vukuzenzele. It was determined that, indeed, this would be a unique way for the women in the community to generate income. A business plan is being developed.