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.
Our last two days in South Africa were spent at the Aquila Game Lodge. We got to stay in some awesome huts complete with an outdoor shower, and giant indoor tub! Some people were lucky enough to get a rat or two in their room… We went on two game rides where we saw the Big Five and many other native animals. It was very cool and I got some awesome pictures!
One of my favorites times on the trip was our official last night in South Africa where we were all hanging out in the lodge talking and sharing about our favorite parts of the trip. I loved getting to know everyone- I have had classes with pretty much everyone who went on the trip, but I didn’t actually KNOW them. I now have actual friendships with people and I couldn’t be more excited! The trip as a whole made a huge impact on me and my outlook on my future. I can’t wait for my next trip to South Africa- it is truly an amazing country full of so many opportunities and, I believe, a bright future!
Friday and Saturday were action packed days in Cape Town where we had the opportunity to listen to talks about Sustainable Tourism, Silulo Technologies, along with a tour of the Bandwidth Barn facility. Saturday we attended a rugby game after a full morning of shopping at the local Green Market Square. No rest when in the Cape!
Allie Meadows started our morning off by talking to us about “Sustainable Tourism in South Africa.” She presented some very interesting points and facts about what she believed would push South Africa to having greater equality and their wealth more spread out. Every country has it’s problems and challenges; one of South Africa’s being that they still have some of the lowest of the low areas without access to basic sanitation such as food and water. Her solutions made so much sense- South Africa has so many natural resources and tourism contributes 9% to GDP. The obvious solution being ecotourism because it is based on nature, has low impact (physically and financially), it’s non-consumptive and it’s educational. You could tell Allie was very passionate about South Africa and finished with telling us that tourism can’t fix everything, but it can: redistribute money around the world, uplift rural communities and help protect most renewable resources.
After Allie spoke with us, our next speaker was Luvuyo Rani, creator of Silulo Technologies, located there in Cape Town, South Africa. His story was definitely the most inspirational and influential. Rani fought the odds that were stacked high against him and was determined to help educate his fellow citizens. Silulo Technologies provides things like computer training, internet cafe, and business writing help such as copies, fax, laminating, etc. The company provides the resources people in townships need to obtain solid jobs. Silulo is a one stop shop for all technological needs. Naturally, when you think of townships, unfortunately, one of the first things you may of is high crime. We asked Rani if this presented a problem for his company and his response was that they built a brand people are proud of, so there is not a real threat of crime in stealing the computers. The people in the townships are very proud of this opportunity and believe in what they are trying to do. This goes along with an overall theme of the trip which was the people of South Africa wanting a change for the better. Rani and his team are single handedly making a huge impact on the future of South Africa and it’s people. I hope that one day I can be as focused and committed to my vision as Rani is to his.
Saturday was our free day, so of course we went shopping! We walked to the local tourist trap… Green Market Square… It was a lot of fun interacting with the local sellers and haggling with them in attempts to get prices down where they belong ha! I got some awesome paintings, a cool tapestry of the “Big Five” thanks to my roomie Alexandra, who would not let the lady charge me more than R260. Hooray for a persistent roommate!!
To end our final day in Cape Town we went to a rugby game and watched the Stellenbosch Stormers take on the Australian team. I had such a great time at this game and scouted out some potential husband prospects on the team. It was so fun to watch and try to learn the strategy of a game none of us had any experience watch, much less any chance of playing. It was a fun end to our time in the Cape!
Our tour of the Cape was a fun day, full of animals and sights we definitely don’t see at home everyday. We stopped first to visit some shops in some cities along the coast as we made our way to the Cape of Good Hope. The shops were very cool and very artsy. I found so many pieces of art I would have loved to snatch up if I could have fit them in my luggage!
The first national park we stopped at was the penguin beach. This still catches me off guard every time I think about it since penguins are the last animal I think of when I think South Africa… This beach was covered with the little guys and I don’t think I have ever seen Collin as excited as he was about seeing those penguins! We snapped a great group picture, then loaded up and moved along to our next location.
Next stop was the Cape of Good Hope where we were able to climb to the top of the hill and view out near the lighthouse. The Cape of Good Hope is the southernmost point of the Cape peninsula. The view was amazing! I have never seen water so bright and blue, or wished that I had my bathing suit and a beach chair so I could go hang out on the beach the rest of the afternoon. It was very cool to think that you were standing on the tip of Africa.
Our last stop of the day was to Hout Bay to take a ride to Seal Island. This is the location where a good portion of “Shark Week” is filmed each year. We turn the corner in the boat and all you see are these huge flat rocks covered in seals! The closer we got the you could see some of the seals actually in the water swimming along side our boat. They were everywhere! It’s no wonder sharks favor this area for a meal. Being out in the ocean was very cool in itself- on one side you had the mountains as a backdrop and on the other you had the ocean that seemed never ending. When we reached shore, we were shocked to see a very healthy seal hanging out with the local fishermen. One man invited people to come feed the seal ((for a price of course)) or pet it because this seal didn’t bite. Come to find out, this man had been to jail many times for forms of animal cruelty. The seal was so fat from all the fish he had people feeding it that it couldn’t fend for itself in the ocean anymore. Needless to say he makes a good amount of money because who wouldn’t want to feed a seal a fish with their mouth?
In our full day of class we had the opportunity to listen to Kevin Chaplin speak to us about his business career and the Amy Beihl Foundation. I really enjoyed listening to Kevin because he started out in the banking world and is now running a nonprofit organization. Kevin is a true level 5 leader and shared with us his ways of being such an inspiring and successful individual. Personally, I am between two opposite career paths in my life right now- one is nonprofit work and the other is sports marketing. I was encouraged that he also traveled two separate paths and in the end is happy and found his true purpose and where he was supposed to be. My goal is to find that one cause or job that I wake up each morning and get excited about! Kevin had so much energy and passion for what he does. He was a real example that money doesn’t buy your happiness or make you “successful.” Helping others, just one person a day will make you and the world a better place.
In addition, I took away a lot from his talk about how in order for a nonprofit to work it needs to have a business structure in place. People are more likely to donate to a transparent organization that operates as a business because they know their money will not be wasted. The Amy Beihl story was so powerful and a true testament to human kindness and forgiveness. I really hope I can find a cause that I am just as passionate about.
Our other speakers for the day were from the University of Cape Town and they spoke to us about the crime and violence present here in South Africa. We were shocked to hear a lot of the statistics that take place each year. One of the speakers actually grew up in a township in Soweto and was the first in her family to attend college. She explained the history of townships and how they come to be. This talk helped to explain why some of the people feel the need to resort to violence to try to provide for their families in poverty.
We had a long day of hard work at the Phillippi Children’s Center. We were broken up into teams, each team with a task to perform to help build the new school. The girls were in charge of painting the walls of the school. All of the guys helped to lay the concrete floor of one of the new sections. Some guys cleaned up the site by picking up trash, nails or marking unsafe areas and then helped to build the kids of the center a new playground. I took part in this a little bit after lunch and definitely enjoyed it. I have small cousins that are all the same age as the kids we got to play with and I know how much they love a good playground, so it was cool to get to help make something these Phillippi kids will find fun as well in the future.
I have a huge heart for kids! Getting to help paint these kids school isn’t a whole lot in the grand scheme of the total operation, I know, but it meant a lot to me. Seeing all of the kids and playing with them on the playground was more tiring than actually painting. The numerous cries of “And ME!! And MEEE!!” as I picked them up or took their picture never ended! The faces and constant smiles of these children will stick with me forever. I know that’s cliche and a typical response for those who volunteer like we did, but it’s very true. We don’t know the kids stories- we have a general idea that their life isn’t glamorous or comfortable, but we don’t know the details or the struggles their families go through day in and day out.
With that being said and based on the information Stuart has given us on township family structure, it is easy to see why we were received in such different ways by the constructions workers we were working alongside, and the school’s female principal. We felt very unwanted and like a burden to the construction workers, but the women there welcomed us with open arms and appreciated everything we did for them that day. These actions and mentality mirror the theme present in South Africa that women are in more leadership roles and are fighting for change for their children. Men get prideful and don’t take it well when they feel emasculated, so they aren’t present in the family. I believe this explains the difference in attitudes we saw while at the center. We need to take into consideration their feelings before we take their attitudes too personally. The construction workers probably work with multiple groups of volunteers on a weekly or monthly basis and don’t understand why the work we’re doing can’t be done by their brother at home who is unemployed. They don’t see and understand the overall plan of volunteer work and donations. They just see this as a paid job opportunity wasted. It all comes back around. Women are taking more leadership roles trying to break the cycles of the past so their kids can have a better future and a better chance of getting a job.
Working at the Phillippi Center was a humbling experience for me. It was a great reminder of just how blessed some of us really and not to take the little things for granted.