The Carpentries are happy to honor Anelda van der Walt as our 2017 Community Service Award winner. We received seven independent nominations for Anelda this year, which is a testament to her commitment to both individual people and the broader community.
Starting from scratch, Anelda planted the tiny seed that has now become the phenomenal growth of Software and Data Carpentry in South Africa, not to mention its spread to an ever-growing list of other African countries, such as Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, Gabon, Mauritius, and Ethiopia.
Funding meant many participants could travel to and attend training which would normally have been far beyond their reach. She also secured the first ever Software and Data Carpentry membership in South Africa. Through her passion for the Carpentries, she has inspired many people to acquire the command line, HPC and other skills that many thought were beyond their capacity to learn.
Since then, she has successfully grown a pool of qualified instructors and has helped hundreds of researchers in South Africa and other African countries develop foundational computational and data skills to drive their research forward. Instructor numbers are now above 22.
Community and capacity building on this scale are much more challenging in southern Africa. Differing research sector priorities, cultural issues, and the availability (or otherwise) of reliable networked infrastructure mean that funding alone is not the only challenge workshop organizers face. Given this, it is commendable that Anelda has worked so hard to foster and support diversity, reaching out to researchers in rural areas and actively working to include groups hitherto under-represented in STEM.
In addition to capacity building, she has taught at more than 10 workshops and has both organized and taught at three instructor training events within the past 18 months. Post-training, she has followed up with trainees to encourage them to complete their check-out, and has helped many begin planning and running their own workshops, oftentimes helping them source extra instructors and helpers.
She encourages Instructors across Africa to interact with each other via African-centred calls like this, both to foster collaboration and to ensure new Instructors feel valued and welcomed into the community.
She also contributes to the global Carpentries community by participating in regular Trainer discussions and meetings and by taking her turn at hosting instructor discussion sessions and teaching demos.
Congratulations Anelda and thank you very much for everything you have done – we honor and value the work you do for the Carpentries.