Scott Leff In South Africa

I was selected to go on the Global Ed trip to South Africa this year. The trip truly changed my life. South Africa is a country that comes from a rough and complicated history. When Vasco De Gamma rounded the cape of good hope, he stopped his ship off in what is now Cape Town. The members of the Cosa Tribe saw these white people and believed that they were their ancestors so they welcomed them with open arms, and so began a history of exploitation. Part of the Cosa coming of age rituals is that when a boy turns 14 or 15, but some do it as late as 21, they go into the bush and get circumcised. They cover themselves in white clay as to make themselves unrecognizable to their ancestors and bond with their fellow members in the bush. Cosa rituals really focus around ones relationship with the ancestors, so when the white people came the Cosa people thought that they were the ghosts of their dead relatives and welcomed them with feats and gifts.

Later when the Dutch East India company was founded, South Africa became the perfect refueling spot for ships to re stock on their way to India. Since the company needed to build in South Africa, and it is incredibly difficult to enslave indigenous people in their home land when there is only a small number of white people, the company began to import slaves from Malaysia to build trading centers. Later dutch people began to move into South Africa and so began the beginnings of the apartheid system. Apartheid is built on the backs of Nazi ideology. If we forcibly separate the race groups than oppression becomes significantly easier.

The wealth gap is incredibly visible in South Africa, even within the townships. When we were in Langa, a township between Cape Town and the air port, one side of the road had two story homes with luxury cars parked in the drive ways, while there were shacks made of corrugated zinc across on the other.

On the Monday after Easter, we paired up with a local Methodist church to assist their youth in their usual service activities. We split int groups and went into the homes of some of the elders in their community. They were homebound, so we brought them large amounts of food so the people living with them would have food to cook with, and then we conducted a church service inside of their home. This was incredibly powerful. The community recognized that aging is not an easy process after a certain bench mark, and went out of their way to ease the burden. The community went beyond helping the physical burden of the aged, but they made an effort to assist their spiritual needs by praying with them.

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South Africa Reflection: Coraya Danu-Asmara


The trip to South Africa was not a vacation. It was not voluntourism.  It was journey and experience in which we listened and observed. We helped local charity projects, but we did not run them, we did not do anything out of our skill, like building a house. The most involved missions were deliving food, which was actually done by the church group, and we simply listened in on their home sermon, and helping at a Chinsta soup kitchen, in which we played with children and cut vegetables. We visited Calabash tours, our tour groups, work in the local school, and the private institution of Ubuntu, an impressive and sexy building, filled with skills classes, clinics, and dance groups. Sounds like we did not do much, huh? This trip was not about how many children we could feed, how many groceries we could deliver, or how many schools we could visit. This trip was not a pat on the back for good work to help those little poor brown children in Africa. This trip was a learning opportunity to hear the stories of those in South Africa affected by the Apartheid, affected by poverty in their townships, and those who wanted to see change in their own communities. We learned about how these people were helping their own communities, and how from what they are doing, we could learn how to serve and help our communities. Their actives would have continued on whether or not we had chopped those vegetables or delivered that rice, they would have been feeding those people, giving their own communities support if we had come or not, and so we were honored to have been able to see these people fight for each other first hand. It was an honor to hear the tragic and painful stories of those young and old in a country struggling to patch up intense racial tension and segregation, just like our own country. It was an honor to see history that happened as recently as 20 years ago, and only as long ago at 100. It is an honor to bring these teaching back to our community here.