South Africa is one of my favorite countries. It has such a wide range of culture, history, beauty, natural variety and activities that I’d live there in a heartbeat, if my lifestyle allowed me to settle down anywhere. So when the chance came to join Lauren and 20 kids for a service trip to Jo’berg and Cape Town, I jumped on it.
The first day was spent in Johannesburg, learning about the history of Apartheid. We toured the Apartheid museum in Gold City, a Johannesburg suburb, then went into Soweto to see Mandela’s and Desmond Tutu’s homes (only a block apart), visit the Mandela Museum, have a fantastic lunch at Wandie’s (an old speakeasy where the roots of the revolution against Apartheid began), then off to Cape Town.
In Cape Town, we spent another day getting oriented with the history and actualities of Apartheid, with a visit to Langa Township, and a tour of Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for most of his incarceration years.
For service, our kids worked at a school in Langa, helping teachers learn some new methodologies for active engagement and running a workshop on empowerment for a group of student leaders. I worked with the Principal to install a wifi router in the administration building for teachers to use to research materials, and to train him in the use of Google Docs for collaboration.
We also had some fun activities that served to help the kids bond tightly…we visited a Cape Seal colony, hiked up Table Mountain (some of our kids did the 3-hour hike in 54 minutes!!) and did a tour of Cape Point with an ‘Amazing Race’ where kids got to clean a fish, make a tribute for the firefighters who extinguished a massive fire only days earlier, and visit the Cape of Good Hope.
According to their narratives, the kids came away with a deep understanding of the history and remnants of Apartheid, and felt that they made a lasting contribution to the school where they worked. It was an emotionally powerful week, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to help out.
Next…off to Vietnam for a couple of weeks, then to Cambodia (Angkor Wat), and Thailand (Koh Phangan). Stay tuned!