Our trip to South Africa has definitely changed my worldview on multiple levels. One outlook that has changed for me is my view of charity. Reading Lupton’s, “Toxic Charity”, helped educate me for what I was going to witness while in Cape Town. It helped prepare me for the large number of beggars who confronted our group as we walked around Cape Town. I have a generous heart and usually succumb to the beggars as they plead for any small amount of money that could help them, but I soon began to understand some of the negative effects my carefree giving could lead too. Beggars can make a pretty steady living according to people I talked to in Cape Town. Some make upwards of six digits in US dollars. From “Toxic Charity”, I learned that by giving into the beggars demands actually does them more harm than good as it leads to dependency. When beggars can make just as much as a working citizen just by holding out a cup and making you feel bad for them, then why would they bother working hard and earning their days wage in a normal job? They become dependent on American tourists who feel sorry for the beggars based on an act that they play. By giving them free money, we are disempowering them and doing the city a disservice as a whole. Their acting became apparent multiple times during the trip but two main occurrences stick out to me. The first one was where Scott Dowling was getting harassed by one of the beggars and when asked for money, Scott politely said he didn’t have anything. The beggar proceeded to say, “How bout I show you that you have money”. This example proved to me that their innocent act is simply that; an act. The second example of this violence was when a group of five PC students were literally mobbed coming back from Long Street where they had some of their valuables stolen from them. These are just a couple examples that helped reveal the beggars true mindsets and helped understand the correct way to handle those situations.
Another way that South Africa changed my worldview was learning all about the townships and the huge separation between the rich and poor from Stuart Hendry. Although there is a lot of poverty in America, there is a lot more in South Africa. Also, the difference between the rich and poor is a much wider gap in South Africa than it is in America. The employment rate is also more than three times higher in South Africa than in America, at an alarming 25%. Learning some of these facts and viewing them in person has really helped me to grasp how lucky I am to live in America. Not only is America much more financially stable, but it is also much safer. South Africa can be a very dangerous place which is quite apparent when you drive around and see all of the communities that are surrounded by ten foot cement walls with layers of barbed wire on top.
My worldview was drastically changed when we helped build the children’s center in the township of Philipi. I was amazed by how little the children needed to have fun and to be happy. Their playground was tiny and close to 40 years old. Because it was so small, many of the children were playing on the cracked up concrete sidewalks and others were playing in the dirt. Despite the poor conditions, they still had smiles on their faces and were loving life. They taught me that possessions don’t determine happiness. It’s not about the material things, it’s about the relationships you have with others. These children had so much fun playing with us and were so thankful for our help. Not only were the children inspiring, but so were the construction workers under Stewart. They were so appreciative of their meager lunches while we were complaining about our hot lasagna. One of the workers brought a loaf of bread for lunch and was grateful for that days sustenance. We came to work for one day and got a better meal than any of their meals for days or weeks. Witnessing these poor children and workers really opened my eyes to how lucky I am to have the life that I have, as well as showed me that happiness is found in the little intangibles of life.
The last thing that our trip to South Africa taught me is the importance of traveling the world and seeing new places. The world has so much more to offer than just America. America is an incredible place and I am very lucky to live there but there are some truly amazing places and experiences to be found abroad. I learned so much while in South Africa, from the people I met, the places I visited, and the experiences I encountered. Broadening your horizons through traveling to new places teaches you so much more than just sitting in a classroom or reading a book; it adds that third dimension. I would highly recommend traveling to South Africa, specifically Cape Town, to anybody. I hope to return to South Africa again one day so I can see some of it’s other amazing cities and experiences and add even more to my study abroad resume.