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When I found out I was going to South Africa, I was so excited for the opportunity to interact with the communities of Nomzamo and Zola.  I couldn’t wait to jump right in. The first two weeks we ran a sports camp for the youth in the community. We taught them soccer, netball, rugby, and baseball. It was so much fun to show them how to do certain drills and play these sports. The kids took every chance to show off their skills and win whatever competition we gave them. The energy and enthusiasm these kids brought every day blew us away. As the days went on, more and more kids would show up early and stand by the gate before we got there. I was really happy that they were so eager to be there and hang out with us.  But at the same time, I wondered if we were doing more harm than good. In two weeks, we would leave, and most likely, never see these kids again. Is it fair to build these relationships with these kids and then just leave?

“We were reminded of the importance of little moments. You never know how people are affected by what you say or how you treat them.  You never know what little lessons or memories that will stick with someone.”

group of kids running outside
ACE participants and the kids warming up for camp

Similar questions arose as we began our last week in Zola working with members of the community to help in CPR training and computer skills. I really enjoyed this week because these skills can directly help so many members of the community. For example, Sunny and I got to work with someone on computer lessons the whole week. We learned that he got fired from his previous job because he didn’t have the necessary computer skills. Every day, little by little, he began to understand principles like “copy and paste” and applications like Microsoft Word. Seeing where he was on day one to where he was at the end of the week was so inspiring because we could all see that he was getting closer to a job. He would study his notes on the computer lessons every day and come back with a better understanding of the material from the day before. He always had a smile on his face no matter how many times he asked us to show him something again. He was so happy that he got the opportunity to learn something that could help him get a job. When something clicked for him, there was pure joy in his eyes.  For me, this was one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip. I still couldn’t help though but wonder if these lessons and skills would be remembered in a week’s time? There’s no way to know if the people we were working with ended up getting jobs or using first aid skills to help save a life.

I was debating these questions and wondering what the community members thought of our involvement. After talking to a lot of different people with different stories, we all began to see our purpose in a much bigger light. Everyone we talked to was super positive and explained that there is a lot of value in members of the community meeting people of a different culture. They may never go to see another culture, so they get to see how we interact and be absorbed in ours for three weeks in their own community. Apartheid in South Africa is still very recent, and it’s very encouraging that the kids and older members had a positive experience with members of a different race.

group around computer
Sunny and Jameson teaching a member of the community computer lessons

Additionally, we were reminded of the importance of little moments. You never know how people are affected by what you say or how you treat them.  You never know what little lessons or memories that will stick with someone. We really don’t know how the skills and lessons we taught over the three weeks will play out. However, I am very hopeful that some of these moments were impactful enough to make a difference in their lives.

“Through all the questions, I learned that I may never know the true extent of our impact on the community of Nomzamo and Zola, but I do know that they had a big impact on me.”

Over these three weeks, I was able to see a small piece of the larger puzzle. I was able to see the bigger impact that GVI is having on this community and was so grateful to be a small part of that. Through all the questions, I learned that I may never know the true extent of our impact on the community of Nomzamo and Zola, but I do know that they had a big impact on me. I will never forget the people I met, the memories I had, and the lessons I learned. I’ve taken away so much from my experiences especially about the importance of community, gratitude, and compassion that I can’t wait to share with my family, friends, and larger Duke Community.

Thank you ACE for the opportunity of a lifetime!

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