Participant and Guest FAQs
Please note that IREX staff in Washington, D.C. will be primarily responsible for monitoring the MWFAlumni@irex.org inbox as staff in South Africa will be busy with the event. Due to the time difference, you may therefore wait longer for a response if you send an email in the mornings, when the D.C. office is not open. Please check to see if your question is answered by the FAQs below. If not, we recommend visiting the information desk located in the OR Tambo Foyer (open 9:00 – 15:00) or directing urgent questions to IREX staff at the Symposium, who will be able to provide more immediate assistance.
If there is a spelling mistake or other error on your nametag, please write down your name exactly as you would like it printed and provide it to an IREX staff member who can have a new credential printed for you.
Lost and Found
Please go to the information desk in the OR Tambo Foyer, open from 9:00 – 15:00. They will check the lost and found and, if your item is not there, note it internally. If your item is found later on, we will notify you via email.
WiFi and Load Shedding
As many of you may have seen in the news, South Africa is experiencing periodic power outages. We hope that Symposium attendees will be minimally affected by the blackouts but is possible that they will experience some outages.
The Birchwood Hotel has back-up generators that will power hotel guests’ Wi-Fi in their rooms. The information for those networks is below:
- Network: Birchwood_Guest_Access
- Password: N/A (open network)
If the power goes out, there will likely be a 2–3-minute lag before the Wi-Fi comes back. If it takes much longer than that, please contact hotel reception.
The event Wi-Fi networks will have a separate backup generator and the Wi-Fi information is below:
- Network: MWF_Alumni
- Password: MWF@alumni2023
This network will only be available during Symposium activities in the event venues, not in attendees’ hotel rooms.
Hotel Questions or Room Issues
Please direct all questions regarding hotel services or issues with your room to the information desk located in the OR Tambo Foyer or, if it is after hours, to the front desk at the Birchwood Hotel, located in the main reception area.
If you need directions to a location inside the hotel, please reference the hotel map in the event app.
If you need directions to a location outside the hotel, please ask the information desk in the OR Tambo Foyer or, if it is after hours, ask at the front desk of the Birchwood Hotel.
If you did not pick up your planned reimbursement during Registration, please email MWFAlumni@irex.org and you will be provided with a time/location to pick up your reimbursement. As a reminder, most attendees received travel allowances to offset costs related to transportation, visas, vaccinations, and other costs associated with attending the Symposium. These reimbursements are for attendees who were unable to receive this allowance prior to the event.
Outside Visitors Policy
We strongly discourage outside visitors to Symposium participants’ hotel rooms, as the risk of COVID-19 remains a concern. We encourage you to take these steps for any visitors: ask about the vaccination status of any visitors before meeting you at the hotel, utilize one of the open lobby spaces around the hotel to meet up, and remain distanced/masked as much as possible to avoid risk of COVID-19 to yourself and the Symposium community.
All attendees should report to the reception area of the Birchwood four hours before their flight. It is your responsibility to be on time. Please note that some flights are departing early in the morning on March 17 or 18, which will require you to check in at the airport the night before.
Changing Return Travel – Fellowship Alumni and Speakers
If you would like to change your return travel at your own expense or have questions about your itinerary, please speak with a Rennies BCD staff member at the travel desk, located in the OR Tambo Foyer. Please note that it is your responsibility to know how long you are permitted to stay in South Africa based on your visa and/or country of citizenship. If you choose to extend your stay in South Africa, any costs associated with changing airline tickets are your responsibility and will not be paid by IREX or the U.S. Department of State. Additionally, you will be responsible for all financial and logistical burdens during your extended stay, such as accommodation, food, COVID-19 testing, and healthcare (including health insurance).
Changing Return Travel – Institute Partners and Reciprocal Exchange Alumni
If you would like to change your return travel at your own expense or have questions about your itinerary, please email WTS at email@example.com. Please note that it is your responsibility to know how long you are permitted to stay in South Africa based on your visa and/or country of citizenship. If you choose to extend your stay in South Africa, any costs associated with changing airline tickets are your responsibility and will not be paid by IREX or the U.S. Department of State. Additionally, you will be responsible for all financial and logistical burdens during your extended stay, such as accommodation, food, COVID-19 testing, and healthcare (including health insurance).
Scheduling Outside Activities/Traveling for Other Events
We expect attendees to fully engage in all Alumni Symposium sessions. IREX strongly discourages attendees against leaving the Birchwood Hotel during the Symposium for any reason. If attendees choose to leave the Birchwood Hotel complex during the Symposium, they do so at their own risk.
Schedule & Sessions
For questions about the Alumni Symposium schedule, please refer to the event app.
Prior to Symposium, attendees selected which of the four thematic breakout rooms they would like to participate in on Wednesday. The four thematic areas are:
- Climate Change
- Education and Youth
- Open Societies, Democracy, and Peace and Security
- Business and Economic Empowerment
The thematic breakout that attendees select prior to Symposium will be printed on their credential. Attendees would benefit by remaining in the same breakout room for the whole day because the conversations that start in the morning will continue throughout the day.
All Symposium attendees selected offsite activities for Monday, March 13 and Thursday, March 16. Due to very limited capacity and in some cases ticket reservations, attendees may not switch their selections during the Symposium. Your selected offsite activity can be found on the back of your credential. If you have any questions, please find an IREX staff member.
The Symposium reception will take place on the evening of Wednesday, March 15 at Constitution Hill. All Symposium attendees will be provided roundtrip transportation to and from the reception. Attendees are encouraged to wear traditional/formal outfits for this event. For attendees’ safety and security, IREX strongly discourages any attendees leaving Constitution Hill during or after the reception.
Emergencies & Health
If you do not feel well, please isolate in your room and take a rapid COVID-19 test. You should have received an extra rapid test in the souvenir bag you received at registration; please email MWFAlumni@irex.org if you need another one.
Once you have your results, please share them via email to MWFAlumni@irex.org. If you test positive, remain isolated in your room and call the local IREX emergency number via WhatsApp from your phone at +27 84 784 5406. A staff member will be in touch with further instructions.
Other Health Concerns
If you have another health concern during event hours (9:00 – 16:00), please visit the EMT in the Adelaide Tambo Room. If you have a medical emergency after hours, please contact the IREX emergency hotline number: +27 84 784 5406.
All non-South African citizens can also access their IMG insurance information by following these directions:
- Go to: https://www.imglobal.com/member/plan-documents
- Where it notes, “Please select option verifying your account,” please select: Insured or Member ID
- Insert your Insured ID (found in your pre-travel email)
- Insert your Date of Birth (this should match what was provided on your passport)
Once confirmed you will see an option to download your Insurance ID card. Please note, you will be able to access this information at any point through the link provided and your Insured ID.
In case of a life-threatening emergency, first call the South Africa emergency number 10111. Then call the IREX emergency number at +27 84 784 5406.