STEP Reflection: Cape Town, South Africa

My STEP signature project was that I traveled to Cape Town with Buck-I-Serv to participate in service with Sakhulwazi Women’s Hut. We spent three weeks in Cape Town learning about the culture, exploring the city/country, and continuing the bridge built five years ago with the non-profit organization.

I went into this trip in a really rough place. I didn’t achieve all I wanted for the semester and I had a lot of home stuff going on. But, I wanted to go into this embracing change. I wanted to grow and become someone I never was before. With this trip I did just that.

Europeans and America has a really horrible view of Africa. We generalize Africa, instead of actually educating ourselves and naming the countries in Africa. We have this idea of famine, children who aren’t eating, zebras and giraffes walking around people’s homes and this is completely false. I personally didn’t have this view, but this is a common image fed to people. Cape Town, South Africa looks like Columbus, OH or Cleveland, OH. It’s a well developed city with people who speak english who aren’t living in famine. Zebras and giraffes are at the zoo or in the wild.

Traveling from Philippe to Cape Town every day was a bit of a struggle. The damage of the apartheid is still apparent and many Black people are still trying to get their live together from that pain. But, the people in the country have the strongest sense of community and forgiveness I have ever experienced. To see people who have lived under a government that has socially and systematically divided them and to be forgiving and hopeful, pushed me to forgive and love all that’s around me.

Mama Rosie is a woman who inspires you to never give up on your dream. She was 45 years old when she quit her job to form a non-profit and pursue her dreams. She started her non-profit in Philippe which is one of the poorest townships in South Africa. She wanted the non-profit to actually be in the community it’s serving. She understood the importance of actually interacting and living in the community you’re serving to because you know what they need and how to make the community better.

We got to help in the Pre-K to 1st grade schools within the township. Every other day or so, we were with the children in the township. Every other day, my heart was fulfilled. Again, we have this image of a people who let their children starve, don’t have clothes, and are dirty. The children look like children. They hold no really physical difference from American children. It took me awhile for them to warm up to me when we initially would get there because there is a language barrier, but the children caught on quick. Still didn’t understand much, but what they did understand was love and attention. They loved playing and always were smiling. Some tears if they fell every now and again, but that’s normal. They know how to latch on to your heart and you never want to let them go. Every time I had to leave each school, my heart hurt and I only wished I could stay.

The women in Sakhwulzi age ranged from 19-60 something. It was a pretty big gap. Mama Maria was the women in charge of the garden of Sakhwulzi. She’s probably in her late 50’s, but moved like she was 16. We were there to help them in any way we could, but she was always moving and going. Never letting herself sit down and relax. She was always appreciative and one thing that stuck out to me was that she said, “Work you have done in a couple of hours, would’ve taken me three weeks.” I stopped. It hit me, that while to me this is easy gardening, the is their life. The same love and appreciation they have for their career, only made me love their career and be enthusiastic about every day we were gardening.

*Kyle¬†was a young man from Miami University who was also working with Sakhulwazi. I initially am always open to giving people chances and meeting new people, but on the first day he rubbed me the wrong way. He bragged about himself a lot and he had the volun-tourism mentality that most people have about countries they deem third-world even though South Africa is extremely developed. There was a community celebration of the five years OSU and Sahkulwazi have been together. Members of the community came and it was beautiful to see the love and support Mama Rosie was receiving. As we’re serving members of the community, Kyle makes himself a plate before everyone else was served and hides it away. Now, being real, poor is poor wherever you go. Some people probably wouldn’t have ate if it wasn’t for the celebration, him knowing this and did that act really taught me to control my temper. To act so selfishly, when he has a roof and food everyday and the people in the community don’t, made me angry. But, the love and forgiveness taught to me over the two weeks helped me acknowledge his faults, put the plate back so someone can eat it and continue serving to the community. That’s why I was there in the first place.

I have always been someone that finds it hard to forgive. I look at the world and life really half empty, have been since I’ve been 10 years old. I never saw a lot of positive and while I understand the meaning of sacrifice, I didn’t appreciate it. Going to South Africa and being able to look at the face of a woman who is working in the field I want to work in and see the love she has of her everyone around her, taught me to be more open to love. I learned that your dream can be reality. To those who claim it’s ambitious, don’t see that it can be done. I am still working on this thing called college and life, but I am very grateful I was able to get to know people that help me look back and breathe. They are loving the life they live, so I learned to do the same.

*Name was changed