My semester in Cape Town has been truly transformative. I will take so many lessons from it, about myself, my goals, and the world around me. My time volunteering with the people of South Africa has shown me that poverty is one of, if not the most, important issue facing South Africa in particular and the Global South in general. Impoverished environments breed a lack of education, unemployment, and ill health. These, in turn, perpetuate poverty, and the cycle continues. It’s a big problem, one that no one person can tackle, and as I spent time volunteering in Cape Town, it was all too clear to me that the influence of one person is fairly small, and that even though one person can make a difference, it is often not as big an impact as that person would like. At times this realization was disheartening; I felt that because my contributions were small, they somehow weren’t all that worthwhile. But as I reflect on my time in Cape Town, I realize that the small contributions I made mattered to the people we helped; the men, women and children we provided with a meal, a listening ear, and a smile. These offerings are indeed small, but they are nothing to be scoffed at. The smallest acts of kindness are still kind, and they can provide hope to those who need it most. They can also profoundly change the actor. Showing compassion and finding the value in volunteer work, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can influence the way one views oneself and the world. ...continue reading "Reflections on Cape Town"
A few weekends ago, my housemates and I went back to the township of Strandfontein to visit the informal settlement that we had made food for previously. This time, instead of making the curry, we delivered and served it to the residents of Klapteinsklip. We stopped at Auntie C’s to pick up curry and fat cook, and then drove about ten minutes away to a small, one-room community hall. Children had gathered outside, and while a few people went inside to set up the food and chairs, my housemates and I sang a few American summer camp songs with the kids. They were pretty shy at first, and we looked a little crazy, jumping around and singing, but eventually they warmed up to us and joined in. The Macarena was especially popular! ...continue reading "Every Little Bit"
Last Saturday all 11 members of York House traveled to Strandfontein, a township just up the coast from Muizenberg, our favorite beach, about 30 minutes south of Cape Town.
As volunteers, our job for the day was to prepare food for around 150 residents of the informal settlements of Klapteinsklip. The CIEE volunteer coordinator, Earl, dropped us off at the home of Auntie Charlene, or Auntie C, a retired mother of two (and very proud grandmother!) who donates her time every day to help the people of her community. Her house was warm and inviting and it was clear that she is one of the most well-loved women in her community. She runs a convenience store on her porch to supply the people in her neighborhood with basic pantry goods, and the few who stopped by that morning stayed to chat with her for a bit. ...continue reading "A Lesson in Curry and Compassion"
"Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing." -Mother Teresa
In South Africa, Nelson Mandela is more than just a politician- he is a national hero. And every year his birthday is celebrated through service; people take time to honor Madiba by helping others. For Mandela Day, CIEE, along with a local organization, took us to a township about 20 minutes outside of Cape Town. This was my first trip to a township, and while I understood poverty in theory, I don’t think I was entirely prepared for the state in which people lived. There is very limited access to electricity and water, none have indoor plumbing. Unemployment in the townships surrounding Cape Town is an average of 50%, schools are overcrowded, and residents have little hope for a brighter future. Faced with such daunting conditions, I wasn’t sure how a group of fairly privileged American students could possibly empathize with and in some way help these people.
...continue reading "Smiling for Madiba: Mandela Day in Cape Town"
Hi blog readers! I am a senior at GW, spending the fall semester in Cape Town, South Africa with the Council for International Educational Exchange (CIEE). I knew I wanted to come to Africa, and when I started looking for programs, CIEE immediately jumped out because of their curriculum flexibility (no specific class requirements) and their commitment to engagement in local communities. I narrowed down my options to Legon, Ghana, and Cape Town. The classes offered at the University of Cape Town fit better with my academic plans, and the social and economic problems associated with the aftermath of apartheid really intrigued me, so I decided on Cape Town!
...continue reading "Hello from Cape Town!!"