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.

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