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I’m going to South Africa!

Posted by on Friday, January 17, 2014 in Service, Student Life, Summer.

I’m so excited about my trip to South Africa this summer. The trip is sponsored by OACS, the Office of Active Citizenship and Service. Throughout the semester I’ll learn about South Africa and service, and then for the month of June I’ll be living and working in Port Elizabeth!

Over Thanksgiving break I completed a last-minute application for this trip, and I found out this week that I have been accepted to the program.

photo credit: OACS

Project Location
There are three places where I could potentially go:
1. Missionvale Care Centre, serving the Missionvale township;
2. Izizwe Projects, serving the Gqebera/Walmer township with a focus on HIV/AIDS; and
3. Coega Door of Hope, an orphanage.
Each location basically involves community outreach and and providing children with basic necessities––education, food, shelter, health care, love.

As I know more about my specific role in the trip, I’ll write more, so check back for updates!

Service Education
I mentioned learning about South Africa and service. This is in the form of five seminars covering the following topics:
• An overview of politics, economics, and culture in South Africa
• Practical training and cultural sensitivity
• An introduction to principles of sustainable community development, social justice and global citizenship
• Consideration of the ethical issues involved in volunteerism in the developing world
• Reflection techniques and team-building skills

Why South Africa?
I expect that the experience will both enable me to help others and give me a greater understanding of a different socio-political environment. This past semester I read Black Like Me, a book that opened my eyes to racism as it was just fifty years ago in the U.S. Of course I had heard of lynchings and segregation in history classes, but the experience of the author, John Howard Griffin, effectively demonstrated the mutual hate between white and black people in the Deep South. Each group was locked in a prison of culture. Likewise, I’m interested in studying the history of apartheid in South Africa and the effects that linger today. This summer, I want to come to understand and appreciate the culture and ways of life in South Africa.

One other very strong motivation: My best friend from home is currently studying abroad in South Africa, and I want to see her there!

photo credit: OACS

Why Serve?
I am inspired to serve because I believe it is the antidote to self-absorption. When I am living for achievements and accomplishments, I tend to think less of others’ needs and wants. On the other hand, when I am part of a collaborative effort, working for the sake of something greater than myself, I feel most connected to humanity.

The emphasis on cultural education is a fresh approach to service for me. The stated goals of the trip, from the OACS website, are as follows:

• Conceptualize a service experience in the context of the South African socio-political and cultural environment
• Serve the needs of others through intentional observation and active listening to a community’s self-identified needs
• Understand the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of those offering and receiving service
• Expand critical thinking through examination of deeper issues related to equity and justice
• Realize your potential to affect community change while maintaining a humble appreciation of the challenges of impact
• Apply learning to future projects and broader issues such as social responsibility, public policy, and citizenship
• Inspire deep reflection that challenges preconceptions and assumptions
• Develop interpersonal skills in conflict resolution and group decision-making

If you want to read about other OACS Global service trips, go here. Beside South Africa, trips include Morocco, Zanzibar, Ghana, Ecuador, and London.

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