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. 

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