Today was another full day of classes. We met at 8:00 in the conference room and discussed what we had learned from our work in Phillipi. Dr. Turner introduced the idea of walking in the workers shoes. We couldn’t help but get the feeling that the workers didn’t want our help, or at least were indifferent to it. This irritated some of us but Dr. Turner helped us put it into perspective. He made the analogy of a group of German students coming to marketing class at PC for one day and being taught the same lesson that we already have covered the day before but also expecting us to communicate in their first language instead of English.
We talked about how our work related to the book we read before coming to Cape Town, Toxic Charity. We basically decided where our work fit into charity and if it was traditional short-term charity or if it was going to make a long-term effect. We concluded that although we only helped for one day, our efforts would be lasting because we helped contribute to something that would have a huge multiplier effect on the Phillipi community. Because we were helping build something that would help the young children to enjoy their school experience more, we were setting them up for successful teen and adult futures. Without good early childhood education, children are missing that critical period of learning which greatly affects their future years.
The day was broken up into three parts with two different speakers. Our first session began at nine after our recap with Dr. Turner. We got to hear from Kevin Chaplin, an extremely successful banker for South Africa’s top bank in the country, F&B. Mr. Chaplin left the banking business after a long successful career to become a public speaker, motivator, entrepreneur, and non-profit business runner. He is a very knowledgeable man who shared many of what he believes to be the keys of a good, meaningful life. His whole mantra was centered around the word, “ubuntu”. This African word has many meanings that envelop many ideas. Some words that help describe ubuntu would be, a sense of universal togetherness, a humble attitude, and a selfless way of life. He basically talked about how to apply this word to business. One key that I learned from him was that you should learn how to run a business and how businesses work in the real world, under a job setting, before getting into non-profit organizations. I will make sure to consider this when I begin job searching.
After a lunch break, we gathered again for a group of speakers lead by Dr. Leon Holtzhausen of the Department of Social Development at the University of Cape Town. To begin the session, we went around the room and each asked a question that we would like to be covered relating to violence in the township communities. We came up with some very thought provoking questions, which for the most part, were successfully answered. Dr. Holtzhausen was a very engaging speaker who asked questions throughout the session to engage us. We were forced to think critically about some of the root causes of the violence and poverty found in the townships. He also helped us to better understand what life inside of the townships looked like and helped clarify some misunderstandings. One of the main points Dr. Holtzhausen brought up was the idea of nature vs. nurture and how a common mutation on a violence gene can be triggered by one environment but kept dormant in another one. He explained how this mutation can be triggered in violent environments such as the townships of South Africa. He also explained to us how the cycle of violence and poverty is extremely difficult to break. One of his colleagues, a black woman named Cozy, helped give us a really good idea of life in the townships as she grew up in one. She explained that although the cycle is difficult to break, it can be done with a strong enough desire. She herself left the township and got her degree from The Ohio State University. It was inspiring to here from someone who had overcome so much adversity.
After another short break, our final session was with Kevin Chaplin again. This session had more emphasis on his foundation, the Amy Biehl Foundation. He gave background to how he got involved with the foundation as well as what he has done to make it better. Listening to a man of so much success and so much money, he really gave off a modest aura. He wasn’t full of himself in the least. He wasn’t dressed fancy and was brutally honest. He really lived by ubuntu and I could he lived life with passion. He had qualities that I wanted and it was very inspiring to hear from someone so caring. Being a white South African, it can be very difficult to love and trust a lot of the black South Africans, but I can tell that Mr. Chaplin really cares about them equally, if not more, than whites like him. I believe that he is colorblind and only sees people’s attitudes and characters. He gave us some nice acronyms to help us with our characters such as the three R’s and WATCH. The three R’s are resolve, refrain, and repeat, which relate to dealing with a confrontation or problem. WATCH stands for, words out of mouth, attitude, thoughts, company, and heart. These all referred to some of the keys to being happy and leading a meaningful life. One of the main points I got from Mr. Chaplin was to surround myself with the right people. This includes people with a good attitude who are always positive, people of good morals, and people who have consistent ideas and beliefs in which they carry out.
Today was so inspirational as well as uplifting and I really believe the speakers will help me find my true passion in life. These long sessions have been so efficient and so packed full of life-changing messages and I truly believe they were well worth our entire Wednesday. I believe that a combination of the speakers we have heard, our teacher and chaperones, the books we have read, and the first-hand experience in the township will help change me by the end of this trip.