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Goodbyes have never been hard for me before. I often have found myself looking to the future with excitement, eager at what lies ahead. I’d like to think this is something that keeps me moving forward throughout life, whether it was at my school graduation or moving into a new dorm. Dwelling on what I was leaving behind never crossed my mind. So, when I left South Africa and more importantly Nomzamo, I was confused when I felt these pangs of sadness. When I was boarding my flight and saw a famous South African sunset, right next to the Helderberg Mountains, I recognized this feeling. The sad pangs were stemming from a realization that this might be my last time here.

It then dawned on me as I wrote my last journal entry that I was leaving behind a place and people that had so quickly come to mean so much to me. For instance, the children we worked with and their incessant joy – the smiles on their faces, the laughter in their voices, and the spirit in their gait – day in and day out taught me about gratitude. The women at the community center revitalized my love and sense of purpose in learning new things. And most importantly my group showed me the power of collaboration and gut-busting laughter.

“It then dawned on me as I wrote my last journal entry that I was leaving behind a place and people that had so quickly come to mean so much to me.”

So I sat peering out the window of the plane, remembering all that I had learned and loved, and immediately felt the need to rush out of my seat and take the first cab back! I wanted this three week experience to go on forever.

But alas, I stayed put in my seat with a new plan in mind. Instead of keeping all this newfound gratitude with me in South Africa, I decided it would be better to spread it. I made a promise to myself in that seat that while I could be sad to leave something so great, I must make every effort to educate everyone I know on the intense generosity and fellowship I learned here. I also made a pact with myself that I should seek to lead my own life with the same spirit of the people in Nomzamo, despite any challenges or difficult circumstances thrown my way.

Now, I’m excited to teach my family, friends, teammates and peers at Duke all that I’ve learned here. I’m leaving Nomzamo with dozens of memories, important life lessons, and a grateful heart.

Thank you ACE.  Enkosi Nomzamo.

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