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As soon as I applied for ACE in South Africa, the only expectation I had was that I was going to run a sports camp for children and teach computer skills to women in a township outside of Gordon’s Bay. I had no idea how much of an impact the community would have on me. On my flight to South Africa, I was overwhelmed with excitement as people continued to ask Jameson, Sarah, and I why we were going. As we answered I thought to myself, I really hope we do not do more harm than good.

As I look back on my three weeks in South Africa, I can think of so many things to talk about that have left an impression on me. However, in particular, I think about the kids we were worked with at the camp and how accepting, loving, and caring they were. The kids looked out for one another. I remember I asked one of the kids if they had siblings he said, “Yes.  One brother, but everyone here is my family.” I thought that was so interesting because these are his neighbors, not actual “family.” Back in the US, my experience has been that it’s not as much of a shared value to be close friends with everyone in your neighborhood especially to the extent to call them “family.”

student-athlete teaching sport outside to kids

I remember having some concerns throughout the trip with the main concern being “Are we doing more harm than good?” GVI set up a lot of meetings for the ACE group to be able to talk to community members so that they could share their experience living in the community and answer any questions we had. One question I asked a community member was “Is it fair for us to come into the community and expose these kids to show so much care and affection even though we will leave in a week?” This was a never-ending concern for us as part of the ACE group. We all cared and had a special spot for these kids in our hearts. It was very difficult saying goodbye. However, the community member explained to us that it was very crucial for us to have spent two weeks with the kids in the community. He said that it is completely fair to expose the kids to people that care so deeply because that allowed the kids to know exactly what it feels like to be cared for and the proper way to show it. What’s not fair is to never give these kids a chance to know what it like is to have someone that cares for you so deeply other than your family. Us being there, he said, is a way to help break the cycle in the community. These kids are very impressionable and if they can take away from us about how to care deeply, then we did something powerful.

“I never thought simply playing any sport with these kids could have such a positive effect on their lives.”

I never thought simply playing any sport with these kids could have such a positive effect on their lives. I thought throughout those two weeks before our talk with the community members that I wish we could do so much more.  But after everything I have learned, maybe those two weeks had a small impact on them and something that could have a ripple effect on their lives.

Personally for me, the kids taught me so much. I definitely have a new perspective on life. One thing I will remind myself of is that no matter the circumstance or what life throws at me, I can push through it especially if I surround myself with people who care about me.

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