Walk Far and Walk Together

When I first heard about the Business Department taking a trip to South Africa, I remember the text conversation I had with my dad… “Dad! My department is doing a Maymester in South Africa! How cool is that? Can I go?” His response was simply, “how much is it?” I replied back with “IDK” which lead him to respond with, “then ‘IDK’ (he thought he was so cool using “text lingo.”) My experience and time spent in Cape Town was well worth any amount of money he could have spent getting me there. The people I met left a huge mark on my life, changing my view on many things we take for granted here in the states. South Africa will forever have a place in my heart.

As I reflect back on our trip, I believe the word Kevin Chaplin introduced to us, Ubuntu, sums up our time in South Africa completely. By his definition, Ubuntu means that you are a person through other people, you value your community over yourself, and humanity is an integral part of the ecosystem. I was blown away by the amount of pride people have for their South Africa. With everyone we had the opportunity to meet and talk with, you could see how much they wanted change for their country. Everyone was so passionate. People like Stuart, Kevin, Kissame and Luvuyo Rani, who knew their purpose and were driven for making a change, inspired me beyond belief. I hope I can be that passionate about a cause one day. People like them completely changed my view on the country as a whole. They love their country and are willing to go the extra mile to help make the change that is very much needed.

There are so many situations during the trip I could talk about that made an impact on me. I know I will carry them with me in the future because they meant that much to me and touched my heart in a pretty special way. The first was our work at the Phillippi Children’s Center. A little hard work and sweat never hurt anyone and I loved being able to contribute to something that so many kids will benefit from one day. As I said before, everyone we encountered was so passionate about what they were doing and seeing that passion through caring for all those kids was something I will always remember. I want to find something, whether it’s a future job or just a volunteer position that I can put my heart into like those at the children’s center. If everyone had that kind of dedication, then the world would be a much happier place. The next instance that I will carry with me was listening to Luvuyo Rani’s story of how he started a company from absolutely nothing and is now very successful. He’s a hero! He’s making a difference in so many people’s lives! Not just for this generation, but for the generations to come. We were all so amazed with his story. He saw an opportunity to better his community and he capitalized on it. The people of South Africa have so many more entrepreneurial opportunities than we do here at home. It may sound lame, but I’ve caught myself seeing something or listening to someone and just being like man that would make such an awesome business, or that would be able to help so many people if executed correctly.

South Africa has a very special place in my heart now and I will definitely be going back as soon as I get the chance! Some of our new friends from Stuart’s entrepreneurial program have been commenting on my pictures and saying how much they miss us already and it is only making me miss that place more. I had a great time and grew so much on the trip and my pictures do not put into words how beautiful that country is. During our time there, everything revolved back to finding your purpose in life and how you can help those around you. The people of South Africa want change. They want change for their children and for their country and after meeting some of the people we did, I know South Africa will only continue to grow. I can’t wait to go back, only this time I’ll save up for a first class seat.

 

 

South African Maymester Final Assignment

I’ve never really thought much about my worldview before. On issues that I am concerned about, I knew where I stand and where the people around me stand. But now, I see that the issues I’ve thought long and hard about would be issues that some people don’t even have to opportunity to think about. I had never travelled to somewhere where the ideas of the people around me would be different than mine. I really haven’t encountered many people that were that much different that I am until this adventure.  It was absolutely eye-opening to be able to see the range from the rich to the poor. I was so inspired to see how much drive and enthusiasm people have that I don’t see very often at here in America.

Of course you know about the poor people, you see them on the street begging. You know they probably have a family in an alley somewhere and you hope the $5 you gave them goes to food for the family and not to a drug addiction. But you don’t know, so you probably don’t give them the money even though you have plenty of change to spare, you don’t want to take the risk. I know because that is me. Unless I’ve really been inspired lately, if I see someone begging, I won’t give them any money. “It’s too dangerous” I tell myself, as if every struggling person living on the streets is going to murder me if I approached them to give them money. It’s horrible to know that people are living in such terrible conditions. But in South Africa, it is so much worse. In America, these people are free. In South Africa, twenty years ago, there people weren’t as lucky. During Apartheid, non-white people were evicted from their homes and forced to live packed together in townships. You can not even imagine how atrocious townships are. Since Apartheid ended so recently, townships are still thriving, with no improvement in the conditions. It’s unbelievable that some people are living their whole lives not having left their township. I never knew such horrendous conditions were possible in a world of technology; surely someone would’ve noticed by now and cleaned it right up. Don’t get me wrong, people are working on it, it’s just hard because the older generations, basically anyone raised before democracy, are used to what they’re living in and don’t see that it could be so much better.

Luckily, younger entrepreneurs are emerging and have started to blossom. Luvuyo Rani was so inspirational and it was an honor to have him speak to us, silly Americans, because he’s become a wonder. He was born in a township and lived there throughout his schooling and working to pay for college. He realized that there was a need for a place where people in townships could go a print or use the internet or even learn how to use a computer. He started a business, Silulo Ulutho Technologies, and became very successful. He taught us to spot opportunity. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been looking for opportunity left and right. I’ve been applying for jobs in every direction hoping something sticks and I hope I am able to become as passionate about it as Rani is about technology. Almost a month after hearing him speak and I’m still inspired to start a business and make a difference like he has.

Making a difference is something I aspire to do. I want to be able to change people’s lives, and this trip has really inspired me and made me realize that I have the potential to do so. Potential is probably one of the most meaningful words to me. I constantly remind myself that I have potential, but I didn’t really know where I was going with it. Kevin Chaplin really helped out with that. He is really focused on ubuntu. Ubuntu is the universal concept that I am a person because of other people; it is the potential of being a human. I realize that want to take my strengths and combine it with others to change lives. Since I returned home, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I could do this. I’m still working on the big picture, but on a daily basis I’ve really improved.  I try to think about my actions before I do them and perform tasks at a small scale to make a difference until I can do so at a large scale. I know the small things that I do don’t make a difference to the world, but to one person, the difference can mean the world. And with that I realize that I can and I am making a difference that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t go on this Maymester.

Another thing that really changed me was a phrase that Kevin Chaplin also used: “be happy anyway.” It made me realize that even when life gets you down, be happy anyway. For me, the past year has been rough, to say the least, a lot of ups and downs but mostly downs. When Kevin was talking about things that weren’t so great, but you should be happy anyway, I realized how much that applied to me, too. With everything that I’ve been through, I am supposed to forgive myself and others and be happy anyway. All thanks to Kevin’s lecture, I’ve been able to make great strides in my personal happiness and happiness with others. Now, I see the world as a brighter place with more potential for happiness than for failure. I’ve learned to see things with more beauty and clarity that I didn’t notice before. I see potential in many more places and I am inspired to do something instead of letting it be.

I really do feel like I’ve been inspired to be a better and happier person. Even though there is such great poverty in the world, I am now aware that it really does exist. I know that even if I can’t fix it or create world peace, I can and have the potential to make a difference in someone’s life.  I’ve really learned to think about my actions and not only how they affect me but how they affect those around me. I’ve made great steps toward becoming a better person and finding peace and happiness within myself, which them spreads to those around me. As Kevin Chaplin also said, “attitudes are contagious” and I want to make sure that everyone wants to catch my attitude.

daily posts

Sunday started with us getting up and going to church. We attended the 10 AM Morning service at St. James Church. It is Stu’s home church so he met us there before the service. The members of the church were so welcoming and even cracked a joke at Stu for bringing a bunch of his American friends to church. The service was beautiful and not very unlike my church at home except St. James is much more modern with a lot of contemporary music and technology involved in the service. After, we gathered with members of the church that are the same age as we are. We talked about America mostly, several have already visited and most are planning to visit in the future, so that was pretty cool! Before the trip, we learned about St. James Church and the massacre that took place there in 1993. It was powerful to be in the place where such a tragedy happened and potentially see people who were actually there that day.

In the afternoon, we were given the option to hike Table Mountain and I did not want to miss it. Table Mountain is 1088 meters in height, which is 3569 ½ feet, I’ve never hiked anything close to this size before now. In the taxi on the way to the mountain, we asked the driver about the hike. He said he, someone in poor physical health, could hike in an hour and his son could hike in thirty minutes. We had this taxi driver a few times already so we trusted his expected hiking time. Boy, were we in for a surprise.  I expected a pathway curving and turning all the way up the mountain. As soon as we began climbing did I realize this was going to be quite different. It was more like a giant staircase made of rock and in some places I found myself crawling.  We saw many people on our journey upward including people jogging up or down and a couple who told us that the cable car (that was going to take us down once we made it to the top) wasn’t working today and we should just stop and head back down. This was not true and I didn’t think that it was very funny.  After SEVERAL HOURS we finally made it to the top and spent a lot of time in the gift shop relaxing and shopping. I am very proud of those of us who hiked and might consider hiking it again… but not anytime soon.

On Monday we went to Stellenbosch.  It was absolutely amazing and we really were spoiled rotten today. We split into two groups and began our tours. First, we went to a butchery where there was so much meat hanging for the ceiling, a sight I had seen nothing like until now. Our tour guide picked up a bag of something for us and we went on our way. Then my group visited a cute little wine place called Brampton – The Wine Studio, it is kind of like a café but only for wine. We tasted several wines and my favorite was definitely the Rosé. The meat that our tour guide picked up was for us to try in between wines. She brought dried biltong and springbok. I was only adventurous enough to try one and it wasn’t as horrible as it looked. Next we went to a tea café where we had a tea party. I do not like hot tea at all but I tried every cup we were supposed to taste—with a lot of extra sugar I added myself! Then we did a lot more walking around the town and saw places like a haunted bookstore, several churches, the “Angel Factory” (seminary), and the oldest house! The oldest house was really interesting; it was built in 1709, I think, and survived the many fires that consumed the town. Speaking for fires, in the center of town there is actually a large open area just for the purpose of having a safe place to go in the town started to burn down! We then had lunch in the oldest hotel in Stellenbosch. Lunch included a tasting of several small portions of South Africa meals like biltong, a ground beef mixture, rice with curry, a tiny salad, sautéed vegetables and mushroom gravy on pie crust. Everything was delicious but I don’t think biltong is my thing. We can’t forget dessert! We got on the buses this time to travel to a dessert café where we tried two more wines, one of which was a dessert wine, and several small portions for dessert. It was all absolutely delicious. Next we took a little break for the luxury and actually did some learning. Andrew’s uncle started a business, The Burgiss Group, and there is a branch in Stellenbosch so we went in for a visit. We were a probably the most rowdy thing that office has seen in a while so we didn’t stay too long. The Burgiss Group is a company that handles data analysis and provides portfolio management software it is clients. It was actually the most progressive office I’ve ever seen because it actually seemed like it let its employees express themselves. By that I simply mean that I expected the employees to be dressed more professionally, that’s all. Back to the buses we went, and onward to the vineyards, to Donier Wines. It was unbelievably beautiful, even though it was the beginning for autumn and the plants, especially the vines, were beginning to have a deathly appearance. Nevertheless, we enjoyed tasting several more wines, and I found all of the wines here to e absolutely delicious. But wait, our day still isn’t over. Last, we went to a super traditionally African restaurant for dinner, Moyo. There was a buffet and we were outside with traditional decorations and dancers! They even invited all their guests on stage to dance. Watching the boys in our group dance was hilarious and I hope they all remember their new dance moves.

Earlier we learned from Stu about the work he is doing with SASDI (South African Sustainable Development Initiative). On Tuesday we went to the township of Philippi to give some of our time helping the construction of a school for children under the age of seven. We were severely unprepared for the work we were about to do but we did it anyway. The girls we given hard hats, gloves, safety goggles, a mask to cover our mouths, rollers and buckets and buckets of paint. They told us where to paint and we got to work. Though it wasn’t easy to paint walls all day long, it was not nearly as strenuous as the boys. They were making cement, moving it in wheelbarrows and knocking down walls. I was especially glad to be a woman today. We worked all day long, but got to take breaks for tea time and to play with the kids. The kids were great. I love kids, especially those ages. They’re so young and innocent, but I know these kids have seen things while living in the townships that I’ve been so fortunate to not see them. Bless their hearts. It was a good experience to help out the little that we could for just that one day.

On Wednesday, we spent a lot of time in the classroom. We started with a speaker, Kevin Chaplin. His lecture was titled “Lessons Shares from the Corporate World to the SA Ubuntu” and he also talked about the Amy Biehl Foundation. We learned a lot of good advice basically. For example, if you have the right attitude, you will make it. He emphasized that vision is critical, you have to believe in yourself and believe in your business. You need to over-communicate. You need to focus. THINK BIG. He discussed the Four Legs of the Table for success. These legs are administration/finances, branding/the product/marketing, people, and corporate social investment/responsibility. You absolutely have to have grace under pressure and there is no such thing as can’t. I thought it was a good presentation. We got a break for lunch and we also squeezed in a nap. The next speaker was Dr. Leon Holtzhausen, a professor in the Department of Social Development at the University of Cape Town. He spoke about “This Impact of Community Violence on Community Development.” I thought he was the most engaging of the speakers because he immediately asked each of us to tell him our name, where we are from and to ask a question we had. This quickly caught my attention instead of the usual throwing of words that you sometimes get when you listen to a lecture. He was so involved that the only note I took was the word “machsismo.” I actually have no idea why I wrote that or what it means! I might’ve meant machismo, which would make more sense than this word I potentially made up since we were talking about violence and economic status. We had another break and then we got back for one more lecture. Kevin Chaplin was back for more. This time we discussed “Living Your Business and Personal Life with the Spirit of Ubuntu, A Practical Approach to Success” Ubuntu. Ubuntu ngumuntu ngabanya Abantu.  All this is a universal idea that I am a person because of other people. I have the potential of being a human being because of other human beings. It means to be fair and compassionate and empathetic to all. It comes from the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Attitudes are contagious, is yours worth catching? At the beginning of a task, your attitude really determines the success of the task. Do you wake up in the morning and say “Good Lord, it’s morning” or do you say “Good morning, Lord”? I feel like this lecture was a glorified pep talk, and it was very nice to have. Don’t walk away from negative people… RUN. Have unlimited enthusiasm. Forgive yourself and others. Act like a winner. The three R’s:  resolve, refrain, react. Make a difference, even if it is only for one person at a time. Accept change. The only aspect of the future that is guaranteed is change. Be honest and frank. Be happy anyways. We learned about WATCH: Words, Attitude, Thoughts, Company, Heart. And we learned ways to boost your happiness. This was a very fulfilling lecture.

Thursday was a big tourist day. Today we got a ride for the first time in South Africa a charter bus. We all got in and began our day’s journey to Cape Point, the most southwestern point in Africa. We had some stops on the way. First, we stopped in a beautiful tiny seaside town full of boutiques and art galleries. It was nice to look at all the unique things made right here in Africa. I liked the pottery made from actual tires. We got back on the bus and headed further south. Our next stop was Boulder’s Beach. Boulder’s Beach is just what it sounds like but better. There are obviously boulders but there were also penguins! I never knew that there could be warm weather penguins! We took tons of pictures. We settled onto the bus yet again and headed finally to Cape Point. Here we had the opportunity to hike to the top and see absolutely everything. It was a clear beautiful day so the view was wonderful. It was a great feeling to being up there seeing the mountain and the ocean and know you’re at the tip. On the way back to town we stopped at Hout Bay. Hout Bay is a major port for fishing. We didn’t know what we were getting into when we got on a boat. We were headed to Seal Island! The seals were amazing but very stinky. It took several minutes of controlled breathing to get used to the smell so we could enjoy the seals. They were massive creatures, and they also had personalities. When they saw the boat coming, a bunch of them got into the water and started swimming and splashing around.

Friday started with a lecture from Ali Meadows. She spoke about sustainable tourism. South Africa is a world within one country, the people and the places are diverse and important. It is critical to narrow the gap between the poor and the rich. She taught us the precautionary principle which is that if you can’t fully measure the impact of something, don’t do it. We discussed how many resources that Africa has that haven’t been used. Tourism is 9% of the world’s GDP, that’s a good chunk. There’s a lot of good tourism, but there is also bad, like whaling.  We need to make the move to ecotourism. We need to focus on using natural resources, being low-impact, non-consumptive, educational, we need to contribute and conserve, involve local communities and be ethically managed. A big point was to take only pictures, leave only footprints. Then we heard from Luvuyo Rani, a business owner that used to live in a township. He started Silulo Ulutho Technologies, a company that provides internet cafés and computer lessons. He was quite an inspiration. He emphasized that we need to know how to spot opportunities and that the three most important things are focus, energy and passion. In the afternoon we toured a company that gives entrepreneurs a place to start their business. You can rent office space and even have connections with business experts to help you start and be successful. It was really cool to see how people in this company work together and I sure hope there is something like this at home.

In the morning Saturday, we had the day off. Most of us walked to Green Market Street where there in fact was a market. It was your basic tourist trap where you bargain with the sellers but it was fun none the less. It was so hard to control spending here but because it was in Rands, I really wasn’t aware of just how much I spent until later! The bargaining was something I had never done before but it was kind of cool. The first time I bargained with someone I don’t think I did a very good job, but I did well the rest of the time. I came out with a new dress, three paintings, a bracelet for each of my sisters and a sling shot for my brother. In the afternoon, we had tickets for a rugby game! Before the game, we went to Toad’s, kind of like a sports bar, and we got to just hang out and chill with each other, it was a lot of fun. Then we walked over to the stadium. Watching rugby was very interesting. Since not many of us in the group knew the rules, I felt like there was just a bunch of staring trying to figure out what was going on. But we knew which was our team (GO STORMERS) and we knew to cheer when the people around us cheered. It was really fun!

Sunday was our last day in Cape Town. It was really sad to pack up all of our stuff and load it on the bus, but we were off to see big things. The Big Five actually. The Big Five are the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, rhino and leopard. We were headed to Aquila Game Reserve. It was the first really cold day of fall and it was rainy most of the day so it was easy to sleep on bus ride there. The drive was through beautiful mountains so I didn’t sleep the whole time. When we got there the visibility was very poor because of the rain. We checked in and they gave us all a glass of champagne! We went to set up our stuff in our rooms before it was time for our 4 PM game drive. The game drive was so cold and so rainy and you really couldn’t see far into the distance at all. It was a two hour drive through the property. Even though the conditions were terrible, we still got to see the animals! We saw springbok, rhinos, zebras, ostriches, lions, wildebeest, buffalo and the only giraffe. We were lucky to see it because it’s the only one on the whole reserve! It’s the only one because its parents fell off a mountain and broke their necks.  The visibility was so bad that our driver told us that he was actually scared to go into the lion enclosure! We went in anyway but didn’t stay long. We went back cold and went but satisfied and ready for dinner. After a leisurely dinner, we all gathered to just hang out, play a trivia game about Africa, and reminisce about the trip together on our last night. We headed to bed at a decent hour because we had another game drive in the morning, at 6 AM! It was even colder in the morning but it was clear and gorgeous. The moon was still out as we got to watch the sunrise with all the animals, including ones we hadn’t seen yet. We got to see hippos and I really liked them. It was so cold and it was kind of miserable to be honest, especially when we kept driving by the same spot three times. But the last time we drove by that spot… elephants! They weren’t as big as I thought they would be but they were great. They were so cute and playful with each other and the pictures I took of them were great with the sun in the background rising behind the mountains. We then went to the enclosure where they keep the injured or sick animals to nurse the back to health. There we saw a lion up close and personal. We also saw a leopard and a cheetah. Memories that will last forever, I’m sure.

Unfortunately, as soon as we returned from the drive, it was breakfast time and then time to pack up and head for the airport. We left from the airport in Cape Town, to Johanesburg, to D.C. and then to Greenville. But I had to travel more. I then had to get on another plane to Atlanta and then to Tallahassee. We started travelling at 8 AM America time Monday and I arrived at home 5 PM Tueday. And THEN I had to go to my sister’s graduation.

Overall, that was a life changing experience and I would do it again in an instant.

South Africa Final

I am by no means a world traveler, but after flying to South Africa I feel that I am an expert of planes, airports, and the art of sleeping on planes! While I was not prepared for the flights ahead on our departure date of May 15, I was even less prepared for what awaited half way across the globe in Cape Town, South Africa. I live in my own PC and TC (Tega Cay) bubble and I am not ashamed to say so. It is so easy to forget what life is actually like for the majority of our world’s population-one of my many take always from our trip

How do you define poverty? I’ll never forget that was the first question Dr. Turner asked us on the first day of his International Social Entrepreneurship class. Is it living under the poverty line? Or having no access to running water? Or what about education? Or is it simply having no hope and outlook for your future. South Africa can easily be classified in poverty in many respects, but lacking in hope is not one of them. The people of South Africa were so eager to create, build, develop, educate, change, and succeed. I met some of the most exciting and inspirational entrepreneurs in South Africa who wanted to create and build their ideas into businesses that would help their country prosper. One gentleman created a ground-breaking company that brought Internet access, computer training, and IT courses to many poor townships in the Cape Town and Johannesburg areas. People like Ian, Stuart, and Kevin wanted to educate South Africans in order to change South Africa’s future. And each South African that I met seized every opportunity they were given to succeed-a Mandela mindset that appeared to be embedded into each citizen. Hope was certainly not what the factor for the country’s poverty.

While in Cape Town, I got to experience small glimpses into the difficult life many Africans have there. But in reality, I was quite spoiled. I travelled in nice planes, buses, and cabs. I stayed in one of the nicest hotels in Cape Town and at a beautiful game lodge. And ate some of the best food I’ve ever had to date. In fact the only insight I had into the real Africa came while driving past townships or the numerous beggers on the street. One of my most memorable moments was meeting a native South African at the waterfront and her telling me how dangerous the country can actually be. In actuallity every country (even the US) has crime, but she explained to me how often people get killed simply over their cellphone. I have to remember that South Africa is one of the more developed and safe countries in Africa! It can come as a shock to realize how different things are.

Since I’ve been home, countless people have asked me what I thought of South Africa. I always tell them that is one of the most beautiful and amazing countries I’ve ever been to. If the flight wasn’t so long I’d book my trip back in a heartbeat. I also have to explain to them that South Africa is in some ways twenty or so years behind the US. Their social, political, and economic views and policies seem to be lagging from the rest of th developed world. It’s easy to forget that only a short twenty years ago the country was plagued with extreme racism and hatred. This is something that is still so present there today and something that the people are continually trying to conquer. But without hesitation I tell everyone that South Africa is a MUST visit in their future.

Dr. Turner opened my eyes to a different world through this trip. I am so thankful that I was able to participate and wouldn’t trade this experience for the world! Now I want to continue to travel more than ever. In fact I have already started saving up for a trip next summer. I cannot thank Dr. Turner and everyone else who made this trip possible enough. Definitely an experience of a lifetime.

20130622-213451.jpg

20130622-164117.jpg

20130622-164146.jpg

20130622-164041.jpg

Looking Back, Now Looking Forward

The trip to South Africa has drastically changed the way I view the world.  My perspective of how big this world really is has shifted since going to Africa.  I honestly do not think I could have gained this new perspective without traveling a long ways from home.  It is something I and most other kids learn as we move through childhood.  As a young kid I thought that the world revolved around me.  As I aged and grew I started to see that the world was a little bit bigger than my yard and my pre-school playground.  Every year my perspective grew bigger with every inch I grew.  One thing I think I always missed until the trip was just how many people there were in the world trying to make their life matter just like mine.  I think inside of every person is a purpose and a need to make the time that we have on earth count.  With out going on to South Africa and taking the classes I took, I think I would have missed this important lesson.  This may not be completely right, but I think the life that is used to its full potential.  Is the life that is lived out to help others make the most of their life.  The mix of everything on the trip from; the classes, to volunteering at Philippi, and traveling around the Cape.  All these experiences helped me see this.  I have to give Stuart a big thanks for being the perfect model of this lesson.  He is an extremely smart and driven man, and he spending his precious time on earth helping those who are less fortunate than him.  No matter what I end up doing for the rest of my life, I want to helping people make the most of their life. 

I Want a Do-Over

I have to admit as a kid, I was raised in a pretty sheltered house, not knowing what was happening all over this diverse world.  But as I grew I noticed that there is much more than what meets the eye.  The great opportunity I had to travel to Cape Town, South Africa shed new light on my developing worldview.  Each day I learned something new and I grew as an individual, inside and out.

South Africa is a young democracy, and like any country around the world they still have their flaws.  The extreme wealth-gap between the rich and the poor had a big impact on me.  I thought it was bad in the United States until I saw how within 5 miles of Cape Town, a rich, thriving city, you could see thousands of South Africans living in complete poverty.  The dwellings they live in, I wouldn’t even call them houses, were jammed together side by side.  Stuart Hendry explained that even during post-apartheid many South Africans are still having trouble breaking free of old ways.  I admired Stuart and his team’s mission of building and maintaining community centers throughout South African townships.  At first Stuart lost millions of dollars and a lot of support.  But the success these centers are having is due to his drive and commitment to follow-through.  He doesn’t simply build a school, throw some money in their hands, and then say, “You’re welcome”.  He sees each project to the end and continues to guide it as SASDI grows.  His actions that he instilled in us go hand in hand with the ideas portrayed in “Toxic Charity”.  Charity is not a one-time thing, such as one-week mission trips to build a school in Nicaragua.  It needs to be a commitment to a cause, which requires much more effort.  After helping build a pre-school in Philippi and facing the countless beggars on Cape Town’s street, I have a new meaning to what charity really means.  My simple action of handing out rands to anyone who asks does no good in the long run.  It may give me that warm and fuzzy feeling inside.  But if I truly want to help someone’s well being, it will take much more. 

Another event that shaped my worldview was the day we attended class at the University of Cape Town.  Stuart taught us the importance of being transformational leaders, leading through your people’s strengths.  He stressed to us this is the key that will help South Africa break free from it’s past, and thrive as a nation.  An effective leader can mean the difference in success or failure.  Probably the most influential leader is Nelson Mandela.  He saw his country crumbling once the apartheid was over and acted.  He was truly a transformational leader, by uniting his country and creating a “nation”.  The story of how he used the Rugby World Cup to bring all South Africans together, no matter the color, was inspirational. 

After my trip to South Africa, once I graduate and enter the real world, I can honestly say any position I am put in I will make a difference.  Whether it be a leadership role or not, I now understand that each part of a company, like a nation (citizens and leaders), play an irreplaceable role towards the entity’s success.  South Africa needed engaged citizens that didn’t “opt out”, and an effective state that was open to change in order for the nation to thrive.  Always remember to “walk together”.

It is good to be back home, but I really do miss Cape Town.  From the climb up Table Mountain to the crazy nights at The Dubliner with my fellow Blue Hose, will be memories I never forget.  Here in the United States I realize how lucky we have it.  My new motivator now is “ubuntu”, which is the potential of being human.  I am who I am, because of who we all are.  Nelson Mandela embraced this worldview to forgive and help others forgive throughout South Africa.  He knew that forgiveness was not optional, but the only way forward for his nation.  I am so blessed to have gone on this trip and to experience the adventures.  Thank you Dr. Turner for putting together an excellent trip.  Any other Maymester simply can’t compete. 

Final Thoughts

At the beginning of May, I was blessed with the chance to take an amazing trip to Cape Town, South Africa to study abroad.  At first I did not know what to expect; I was traveling to a country I knew almost nothing about and to top it off, I had never flown in my life.   Despite the fact that all of this was new to me, I knew that this trip was the perfect chance to get a couple courses out of the way and that it would be a blast traveling outside of the US, which is something I have always wanted to do.   The trip to South Africa really gave me a newfound understanding of how the world differs from us here in the states and showed me just how lucky we are; it also gave me a new understanding of leadership and what that entails.

One of the major things that really stuck with me from the trip, after the amazing scenery, was the importance of the role of leadership in the growing of a nation and a business.  The first full day we were in Cape Town, we had a day of classes with Stuart Hendry, a professor at the University of Cape Town.  There he educated us on the immense history of South Africa and all of the pain that they had been through because of apartheid.  The prime example of the ultimate leader, from South Africa’s viewpoint as well as the world, is Nelson Mandela.   After suffering for over twenty years in prison, he was released and did not act on the hatred that had built up in his veins; he chose to push for negotiations with the apartheid government and persevered through many struggles and setbacks to win freedom for South Africa.  Mandela did not give in to the obstacles in his way, he continued to push for a peaceful transition into a democratic state and eventually he was successful and was elected to be the president of the redefined nation.  It was amazing to see how well everyone came together and worked for the common goal; everyone was invested in it and determined to see it through.  It was also very evident that the people of South Africa are very proud of what they have accomplished and they should be.  It is no easy task to change something that had become the norm for so long.  It is also very inspiring to see the young leaders coming out of South Africa and the University of Cape Town.  They are determined to make South Africa a better place and are devoted to its success as a nation.    The perceived qualities for a leader is that they have to be confident and strong in their endeavors to ensure success; even though those are important, that is not all that is important.  To truly be a successful leader, one has to know their purpose.  They have to understand where they are going in life and in their careers.  No one can lead if they themselves do not know where they are going; if someone that doesn’t have a grasp on their purpose or their ultimate goal, then they will be leading their followers into an abyss of failure.  Along with purpose, a leader must also engage with the people surrounding them.  One of the most important qualities that a leader must have is their ability to connect with others.  They have to be able to build relationships and show that they genuinely care.  Before someone can motivate others to completely buy into the job or task at hand, one must fulfill all of their fundamental needs.   According to Max-Neef, if those nine fundamental needs are not equally met, then the worker will not be completely focused on the task at hand and will not be successful.   By meeting the needs of their subordinates, a leader can develop trust and bring people together to form an unstoppable team of individual’s hell bent on making their endeavors a success. The term transformational leadership envelops all of the qualities that I have discussed, but the ultimate goal is to lead in a way that creates more leaders.  By continuing to create thinkers instead of just doers, you create endless possibilities for success.  That is what South Africa is aiming to do and that is what we need to do a better job of here in the US.

Another takeaway from the trip would have to be the difference in the social structure of South Africa compared to the US.  One of the first things we noticed after getting off the plane, while riding to our hotel, was the vast amount of poverty.  On our drive, we saw large plots of run down shacks that were made of nothing more than ply wood and sheets of metal. These communities were fenced in and set apart, in a way, from the inner city.  These places were called townships.  These townships were set up during the apartheid rein in an attempt to separate the colored population and the white population.  Even though apartheid has been abolished since 1994, the effects of it are still very evident in the cities.  There are still very poor living conditions in the townships and in some they don’t even have access to running water.  The government is working hard to correct these problems, but is struggling.  The closest thing that can be related to this type of situation are the slums and poverty stricken areas in the US, but in reality nothing compares to the sight of some of the townships.   The key to bringing the nation out of the deep levels of poverty is the development of leaders; the types of leaders that Stuart Hendry is working so hard to produce. Stuart works with an organization called SASDI – Southern Africa that focuses on sustainable development. They have developed a plan and are focusing on the youth of South Africa by building children’s centers for the townships where children can go to learn and develop a future for themselves.  We had the opportunity to go and help with the construction of one of these sites during our time in South Africa; it was definitely an experience I will never forget and was also one of the highlights of the trip.  I was tasked with laying concrete for a classroom that day and we were able to successfully complete the project.  We also were able to play with the kids and that was also very rewarding. They had a good time playing with my red hair; it seemed very foreign to them.  It was a good experience for us to be able to see the work that the foundation was doing first hand.  South Africa has a long way to go, but they are working endlessly to improve upon their situation.

There is one last thing that I learned while on the trip and it is expressed with one word, Ubuntu.  This word encompasses what I have always tried to show through everything that I do.  It means, “I am a person through others, a part of a human community, to value others rather than oneself, and be fair to all.”  To me, this is what the world needs.  No matter where one travels, there are millions of people doing their own thing and only caring about themselves.  They are worried about what the world can do for them and not what they can do for the world.  They are so focused on getting what they want and willing to do whatever it takes to get it, even if it is at the expense of others.  We, as a “human community” need to care for everyone and do our best to help others before ourselves.  If we can come together for the common purpose of making the world a better place then there are no limits to what we can do.  The obstacle that stands in the way is greed and the need for individual power.  It will not be easy to break the habit of those and it would be completely naive to think that one could abolish them altogether, but if people come together and see the big picture, that its not about them, then the world would be forever changed.

The trip to South Africa was amazing.  I am truly blessed to have been able to take the trip with such an amazing group of people.  I will cherish and carry this experience with me for the rest of my life.  Leadership, the difference in culture, and the fundamental idea of Ubuntu were just a few things I have taken away from the trip, but probably the most important thing generated from the trip were the relationships built with each other.  I will never forget the memories we all made.  It was something I will never forget!  I am definitely ready to go back!

IMG_0177