For those of you still paying attention to this blog, you’ll notice it as been almost a year since my last blog post. Last summer I spent 5 weeks in the incredibly beautiful and rich country of South Africa. (rich in history and depth, not economically rich) The experience gave me such a critical understanding of the world we live in and even taught me a little about myself in the process.
Since then, however, I have graduated from Guilford College with a degree in Community and Justice Studies. In August I am starting a year of service with the Young Adult Volunteer Program in Washington DC. I’m still not sure at what service site I will be working for the following year, but needless to say I am both excited and anxious to start this new adventure. Thank you to all of you who will be supporting me through this year and I will keep you all posted about all I am experiencing.
Where do I begin to share what has happened over the last week? Like most places I’ve traveled, it’s almost nothing like I thought it would be. And though my journey is just begining, I’m excited for what’s in store.
I’ve been in Cape Town for a full week now. The host family I live with is very nice and accommodating to anything we need. The father works as a driver for the volunteers during the week and runs his own weekend touring company of popular places for tourists to visit while their here. The family has three children, and the oldest has a child that’s almost 2. They tell us that the area we live in is not safe for us to wonder around in by ourselves. This is wise advise to follow as I’ve already heard of two other volunteers getting mugged at gunpoint in the past week. Still, there’s a park across the street from our house and I sometimes go play soccer with the kids from the neighborhood. So far haven’t had any problems.
Much of Cape Town has been influenced by western culture. Parts of the city look very modern and it’s hard to tell any difference between here and the US; however, the place that I volunteer is a township called Lavender Hill. Townships are very poor areas of the city where homes are made out of scrap pieces of tin and wood that are nailed together to provide some shelter. While they do have some electricity, the number one threat to these communities is fires and they have no heat to keep them warm in the winter. Dean, our project manager, tells me that this was where people we’re relocated and how they would segregate during Apartheid. These communities are home to several gangs and see a lot of violence. Dean also tells me that 70% of South Africa is unemployed and most people live in these kinda of communities.
I was shocked. Anywhere you go, you can find some form of inequality, but it seems to be more visible here. Yet these townships are pushed out towards the edge of the city so that they are hardly seen and don’t have to be dealt with. And for the people living there, there’s not much they can do to escape. Through our volunteer work, we hope to inspire this community and help them realize their power in creating a better life for themselves. One where they aren’t marginalized and have value. I’ve been told that I’m too much of an idealist, but I know that a better life is possible for these people and the millions of others that share their situation. It’s not going to happen overnight, but in the words of Nelson Mandela:
It always seems impossible until it’s done.
More to come soon. Grace and Peace.