08.12.2016 - 08.12.2016
This time tomorrow I will be at Durban Airport waiting to board my flight home. I cannot quite believe that my 3 months in South Africa has come to an end. There have certainly been moments when I wished, more than anything, to be back at home but I have enjoyed the majority of my time here and certainly feel that I have challenged myself and grown as a person.
During our last week on placement in Cedara we organised a careers session for the children and young people in the village, arranged a netball session with the young girls and helped run the Grade R and Grade 7's graduation. The graduation was such a big event - bigger than my own graduation! The children all got little gowns and caps and all the village turned up to watch them receive their certificates. It was great to see how excited they all were to see their children succeed.
These past three months have been exciting, challenging and exhausting! I have learnt so much about South Africa but also about the way I perceive the UK. This whole experience has certainly taught me to be extremely grateful for things I often take for granted.
What I am even more grateful for:
Hot and cold running water
Showers!! Not having to bath in a bucket!
An inside toilet and kitchen
A washing machine
The vast amount of opportunities and freedom I take for granted
Not being discriminated against because of my gender or age
The money to have a balanced diet
Good friends and a loving family
I have also learnt a lot during my 3 months in South Africa and I just wanted to share with you what I have learnt about poverty, community and love.
Poverty comes in all shapes and sizes. Just because you don't have running water inside your house doesn't mean you are poor. The community in Venda had access to clean water and had ways of storing it. We never lacked water at home, even when the water was turned off. You quickly learn to live without a shower, without a flushing toilet and without an oven- fire does the job just fine. The things that we think are signs of poverty are just signs of a different way of life. The poverty the people in both Venda and KZN suffer from is the lack of opportunities. We have so many opportunities available to us that we often feel overwhelmed and put things off. We say that we'll do that thing next year or we'll look into this thing next week but we often end up so comfortable with our lives that opportunities and experiences pass us by. Being in South Africa has made me more determined to look out for and grab opportunities when they come my way, to see them as a challenge and most of all, to be grateful for them.
During my three months here, I have met many incredible South Africans who are determined to change their country for the better. They know that their country faces vast amount of problems but they are determined to tackle them head on and make a positive difference in their local community. This amazing attitude has really challenged me to go home and see how I can make a difference in my local community. When I think about poverty, I often think about Africa or India or South America. Very rarely do I think about people at home in the UK. I think this is because I know that, compared to a vast majority of the worlds population ,the UK is extremely rich. Statistics show that the UK is the 7th wealthiest country in the world. Yet 22% of families are living below the poverty line. That is around 13.5 million people. The number of people relying on food banks to feed their families is rising and there are more people living rough on the streets than ever before. Whilst I whole-heartedly believe in overseas aid, I also know that I sometimes spend so much time worrying and wanting to help people in other countries that I forget to look at who I can help within my own city. This experience has made me determined to return home and help out where I can.
So that finally brings me on to the topic of Love. I think if I could ever quote Nelson Mandela in a non-cliched way it would be now. So this is what that great man had to say on the topic of love.
' No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite'.
Love has certainly come naturally to the two families I have stayed with during my time here in SA. I think most of us find it hard when family members come to stay for four days at Christmas so I don't think many people would find it easy sharing their home with two complete strangers for 3 months. Yet both families I have stayed with have welcomed me into their homes and lives with open arms. I have been treated like an adopted daughter and can whole-heartedly say that I have been loved like a daughter. Saying goodbye on Wednesday was really hard and a lot of tears were shed. That's the thing about loving people, when you leave them, or worse, lose them, it hurts... a lot. Loving someone with your whole heart can be the most dangerous thing you will ever do, for the fear and pain of losing them can cause you to lose yourself. Yet I truly believe that love is the greatest weapon we have against the awful hatred that is in our world-South Africa is living proof of that. The pain that this country has suffered, and continues to endure, is like no other county in the world, yet it is a country which continues to love. Love can eradicate racism, destroy homophobia and stamp out sexism. The people I have met during my three months here are all living proof of that. Their country is one that, for so many years, was governed by hate and fear yet the work of LGAMC, School Trade, and many other organisations like them demonstrates the great love that South Africans have for their country and for all its people. Despite the pain, South Africans are learning to forgive and move on from the past. But most importantly they are learning to love again.