Wednesday, January 30, 2008, 02:30 PM
Posted by Katherine Koeppel
As we continue to travel throughout South Africa, we are constantly exposed to the widespread and severe problems that people in this country are facing—both as individuals and as a nation. We have visited many non-profit agencies (NPOs) that strive to help those suffering from HIV/AIDs, abused and neglected children, victims of domestic violence, etc. We have seen schools and education centers that are devoted to equipping children with the knowledge and skills they can use to open up doors for their future.
I originally was supposed to write this posting about how volunteers and people from outside South Africa serve this country. However, after being here, what stands out even more is the drastic measures that South Africans are taking themselves in creating lasting change for their communities. While many of these NPOs and schools might seek funding from outside sources and countries, it is quite evident that the heart, soul, and passion of the organizations come from within their own communities. As we read in Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s New News Out of Africa, “On a daily basis, South Africans from all walks of life are showing a positive commitment to making their country work. (p.66)” Individuals and leaders from within the community, who saw a need, have started nearly all of the agencies and schools we have visited. The HIV and Aids Hospice Special Life Care Center was started by a politician in Cape Town, who was asked to take action by a local minister. I greatly admire these individuals and their leadership in the community. They did not wait for the government to take action to solve their people’s problems, but saw the critical need and took it upon themselves to find a way to help.
In the article that we read Chasing the Rainbow, the President, Thabo Mbeki, quotes the present time as South Africa’s “age of hope”. I agree that progress and change is being made, but should be greatly credited to local leaders and communities. All of us were impressed with how the leaders in the community were empowering their people and giving them true reason for hope. I am also in awe with how impelled people feel to solve their own problems, rather than asking for outside help.
There are clearly many problems throughout the country and many are being dealt with on the individual level. I hope that one day the nation as a whole can come together to help further solve South Africa’s devastating problems.
As we travel city to city and see firsthand individuals suffering from poverty, AIDs, and other problems, it seems overwhelming. I can definitely see how there is no easy solution to solve each problem. In visiting these groups in need and going directly into townships, it did not seem as though people wanted charity. I think, more so, awareness of such problems is even more important to them. I know that our class is coming back with knowledge, stories, and experiences that will change the way that we view the world. We all left the safe Elon “bubble”, and exposed ourselves to a world completely different than our own.