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. 

Philippi

On Tuesday we visited the township of Philippi where we worked on a pre-school under construction.  SASDI’s action plan of educating the youth in these townships is a huge undertaking, and they are making great progress.  It was a great opportunity to donate a little bit of our time to help in any way we can on the site.

When we first arrived the conditions were pretty bleak.  But the principal and staff used the little resources they have to provide a safe, clean place for these little kids to play, learn, and go while their parents are at work.  After our safety introduction, we all felt a slight hesitance towards our presence there.  I now understand why the construction crew were partially against us working.  They see us as Americans coming in with no construction experience, working for free, and taking other’s jobs.  I would feel the same way if I had to work everyday in the hot sun for very little money.  Even after the slight cautious attitude towards us, I believe we all stepped up to the plate and helped out as much as we could.  Some of us painted walls, unloaded/mixed cement, and designed a playground for the kids.  We were able to play with all of the kids as well.  After a hard days work, it was satisfying to see the finished project.  We may not have helped out much, but I learned a lot while being there and really enjoyed it.

This was an eye-opening experience.  I was able to put myself into someone else’s shoes and realize how difficult life can be.  I thought about Toxic Charity after we left, and believe in order for Philippi to experience long-term development actions like these must continue.  We simply cannot donate money then turn the other way.

-James Rew

Stellenbosch

We were lucky to visit the famous wine lands around Cape Town in the town of Stellenbosch.  The atmosphere in Stellenbosch is very different from Cape Town.  It is a much smaller, slow-paced, college town with historic buildings and streets.  But it was a great contrast compared to Cape Town.  The various wine and tea tastings began around 10 am…it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.  We tried a variety of red and white wines, along with rosé.  There were a couple types of beef jerky to snack on as well.  Between tastings we went on a walking tour of the city.  Making our way down Dorp we passed by old churches, the seminary, while learning some Afrikaans’ lingo from our tour guide.  We also walked through one of the oldest homes in Stellenbosch, and saw what life was like back then.  One of the most interesting things I thought was how families always kept a coffin in storage in case of sudden death.  Once a coffin was used, it was a long trip to Cape Town to buy another.Image

Later that night we went to Moyo’s, a restaurant that made it seem you were in the African heartland.  We had our faces painted and ate traditional African food, from kudu, springbok and impala.  One thing we learned later was the food we did not eat most likely did not go to waste.  The waiters/waitresses took our uneaten food home to their families.  This made me realize that the American way of living is very wasteful and we take many things for granted.   

Days 2 & 3

We were back in the classroom on our third day in Cape Town.  However it wasn’t in Jacob’s Hall, but at the University of Cape Town.  Dr. Hendry taught us how to become effective and efficient leaders.  It is important to focus on transformational leadership, which uses the skills of your followers/employees.  Leading through people is highly effective.  We also discussed the significance of fundamental needs and the relationship between those needs and satisfiers.  Examples of fundamental needs are subsistence, protection, affection, participation, and creation.  We also were able to meet students from the University and other local students.  After hearing their “pitches” we made our way to a local restaurant to hang out and get to know each other better.  It was eye opening to see that they are pretty much just like us.

The next morning we attended St. James Church, where a massacre occurred during the apartheid.  When we first pulled up to the front door I was expecting to see a small, traditional church service.  I was very wrong.  The service was contemporary, and the congregation was huge!  It was a great experience to visit this church, and cool to see how other Christians worship around the world.

Later in the afternoon I decided to accept the challenge of climbing to the top of Table Mountain.  The difficulty of this hike was underestimated, big time!  It was steep and very tough.  Once I reached the top, it felt awesome.  Knowing that I climbed up this huge mountain from the bottom up made the work worth it. We ended the night with a great dinner at a local pizzeria while using their free wifi.

Day 1- Intro to SA & Leadership

My first day in Cape Town was highly eventful. It started out bright and early to a lovely breakfast at the Southern Sun hotel. I was still recovering after our long trip the day before, but was eager to fill my brain with knowledge.

Our guest speaker, Stuart Hendry, started the morning off with an engaging presentation on South African history and national pride. We discussed the never-ending tension between the diverse cultures and the attempts to unite the citizens of South Africa for the betterment of the nation. I found these topics very interesting in comparison to U.S. history. Life during apartheid in South Africa must have been very hostile time.

After lunch, we made our trek through downtown Cape Town in a crazy taxi (left side of the road equals wrong side)! We made it to Table Rock in one piece, and took a gondola up to the top of this massive mountain. The view from the top was amazing, unlike any other. I had an awesome time!

We all worked up an appetite after a busy day, so we decided to go eat down at Victoria’s Wharf. I went out on a limb and had South African cuisine…zebra and ostrich.

I am looking forward to the rest of my time in Cape Town.Image

Toxic Charity

The words “toxic” and “charity” have differing connotations that I would never think to use together.  Associating the generous, kind, selfless acts of charity with toxicity seemed contradictory and inflammatory as I judged Robert Lupton’s book by its cover.  Little did I know what repercussions charitable work can have on the very ones you are trying to help.    

After reading Toxic Charity I still am inspired to perform charitable works.  I have always been quick to give handouts to the homeless throughout my hometown and where I travel.  I tend to stay away from those who have signs and are simply “begging” for money, and focus on those who do not ask.  They seem to be the ones who are honest and too proud to stoop to beg.  I believe those who don’t ask really need some assistance to get back on their feet, and are willing to do whatever it takes.

I will always have the desire to lend a hand to those in need.  But I will take a direct approach towards it.  My family always adopts a family through our church during the holiday season.  The joy the children will have when they wake up to presents Christmas morning is the only thing most people consider.  We forget to realize how this assistance affects the mother and father.  As portrayed in this book, the father who could not provide presents for his kids had to step out of the room because he could not handle it.  Either parent would feel so ashamed that they could not provide for their family, and could not put the smile, they were witnessing, on their child’s face.  If you wanted to be proactive, you could satisfy both the kid and parent’s needs.  I agree with the idea of providing temporary employment in exchange for money during the holidays, such as yard work, maintenance, etc.  Then the parents feel proud that they can personally pick out presents that they earned from their hard work.  This instills new motivation and drive. 

Top down charity does not always work.  You have people who take advantage and become dependent of others.  This wasteful charity can be witnessed on the international level, such as the “never-ending relief” for Haiti.  Initial relief after a disaster is necessary, but “when relief does not transition to development in a timely way, compassion becomes toxic” (7).

The average committed social advocate can continue performing charitable work, but needs to live by “The Oath for Compassionate Service”.  Of course it is much easier to donate money, receive your warm and fuzzy feeling, and be done with it.  However, true change comes from the commitment and the determination to see a cause to the end. 

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Chinese Proverb

Pre-Trip Expectations

When I think of Africa, the “Lion King” opening song pops into my head! I am stoked that in about two weeks our journey will begin. The journey to our destination will be the hardest part, with that awesome plane ride, but it will be worth it.

This will be my first trip out of the country, and I will be going into it eyes wide open. I hope to meet many new people, and become closer with my fellow PC friends. Everything about South Africa interests me, from the dynamic history, apartheid, geography, to the wildlife. When we go on the safari I hope we get to see the “Big 5”. The service at St. James Church will also be very interesting to actually sit where the congregation sat, and the massacre took place.

Overall, this is going to be one heck of a trip! I am going with a great bunch people, and we are going to have so many stories to tell when we get back.

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