This past spring break, I travelled to South Africa with the school on one of their Global Education Program trips. It was truly an incredible and eye-opening trip. The entire trip was centered around service and service learning, but the most rewarding aspect of that within the trip for me was the day we spent doing Outreach work with a local church in a township in Port Elizabeth. We had spent Easter Day with this Church, who had been so welcoming and friendly to us on the holiday, so we already knew them quite well (with the help of a few Icebreakers!). But this day was different. Outreach is something the church regularly does and they had so eagerly invited us to join them for the special occasion. For Outreach, small groups of people go around to different homes in the township where there is someone who is ill, they bring food staples for them, but they also pray for them. My group went to the home of an elderly woman, she lived in a tiny shanty; the roof was concaving down because it was so poorly made. She was lying on her bed, and they pushed us (the somewhat terrified Americans) right next to her side, and then the rest of our group all surrounded her. Then there was a moment of silence, and before I knew it, the leader of our group started singing, a beautiful, soulful prayer song. It was so clearly powerful for this woman, and for everyone involved in the outreach. Everyone was in tears, and this woman seemed to be really uplifted, or at least moved, by what we had done. For me, it was incredibly moving and powerful and really was a moment for me to reflect on my privilege. Family illness is no joke, and to think of all the resources and wealth we have in terms of medication and health care was so suddenly so very clear. Through out the entire trip, our group grappled with privilege and with our sense of selves and lots of other things on a deep emotional level, and I think this was all rooted in the learning we were doing and the service we did. Not only did we as a group become extremely close, but we, as individuals, left the trip with a greater sense of self, which is more than I could’ve ever asked for.
This past year I have been volunteering at GO Project almost every saturday. GO Project is an organization that provides school services on Saturdays and during the summer for kids who attend public school. Not only does GO provide learning to the kids, it goes further than that and reaches out to the families; they have workshops each weekend for the parents to attend on a range of subjects. I spent my time helping out in a 4th grade classroom, and though at times it was difficult, it was equally amazing to see the progress the kids had made by the end of the year. I became really close with not only the students, but with the other volunteers and the head teacher of my classroom.
I also became part of two committees at GO Project; the Student Sub-Committee and the GO Getters. The GO Getters is a year round program, that is made up of high school students who volunteer at GO, in which we discuss increasing visibility of GO Project, whether it be through fundraisers or recruiting volunteers, and also continuing discussions on educational equity, and how it effects our community. The Student Sub-Committee, also made up of high school students, focuses on similar topics, however we go more deeply into connecting the students of GO Project and the students at the host schools. Educational equity has become something I am really interested in, and having two groups of students from varying high schools to have open discussions about that topic has been really liberating.
The GO Project has been a large part of my life this year, and it has been equally challenging as rewarding!