Working in Nomzamo has been such an impactful experience due to the new perspectives I have gained while working with the children and learning about the adults. During the third week of working in the township, I began feeling very comfortable and familiar with the community. I developed relationships with people in the township as well as other GVI staff. I spoke to several adults outside of Nomzamo as well who had found success in townships and tried to understand the paths they took in doing so. Many of their stories revealed that hope goes a long way in a person’s journey.
The final week of working in South Africa, we assisted with a women’s empowerment campaign where we taught women from around the area how to use desktops and laptops. In the township, many never develop these skills because technological resources can be limited. It was exciting to see people who had never touched a keyboard walk away with the ability to create a PowerPoint presentation.
“Working in Nomzamo has been such an impactful experience due to the new perspectives I have gained while working with the children and learning about the adults.”
One day after teaching a Microsoft Word lesson, I walked outside to have my lunch. I said, “Molo” (“Hello” in Xhosa) to a man who seemed as if he worked in a different department of GVI. He asked me what kind of work I was doing, and I explained to him about the sports camp and women’s empowerment training that the ACE group was involved with. I began asking questions back to him about his life. He described how he had grown up in Nomzamo and was now in a master’s program at Stellenbosch University (a university less than an hour from Cape Town). It was interesting to learn from someone who had grown up in the township and now was working on his graduate degree. He was working with GVI in order to create a multiple-acre garden in Nomzamo to feed the community. He had plans to level and fertilize this plot of land within the next couple of months. It was truly inspiring to hear about his aspirations and it made me wonder how he had been able to pursue advanced educational opportunities. He explained how he had a big family that still lived in Nomzamo and he wanted to give them a better life. He had seen other people make it out of townships and create better situations for their families so he decided that is what he wanted to do as well. However, I saw that he is not just creating a better situation for his family, but he is providing opportunities for numerous families throughout the townships with his agricultural endeavors.
Throughout this experience, we have spoken to many people who grew up in townships: M.C. from Langa who started his own cultural tour business, Blacks and Space from Felipe who are braai entrepreneurs, and a man from a third township who started up his own gym where he grew up. Every time I asked them what fueled their fire, they had one common theme: hope. Each of them had a specific example of something inspiring they had seen or experienced while they were younger that motivated them and gave them hope for a brighter future. M.C. explained how on the weekends he would eat with friends who had been more fortunate to have adequate meals and that had given him hope to reach the point where he did not have to drink sugar water and bread on a daily basis. The gym owner from Felipe said he had seen an athlete when he was younger that had inspired him to live a more exercise-filled life and offer those opportunities for other township kids. In each story there was the similar driving factor that led to their success.
“Throughout this trip, we have spoken to many people who grew up in townships, such as, M.C. from Langa who started his own cultural tour business, Blacks and Space from Felipe who are braai entrepreneurs, and a man from a third township who had started up his own gym where he grew up. Every time I asked them what fueled their fire. They had one common theme: ‘hope.'”
The kids I met during the program seemed happy and content in their lifestyles. They have such a rich culture and positive outlook on life. Whatever they lack in financial resources, they make up for in attitude and personality. Unfortunately, due to their lack of resources and finances, a majority are not able to attend a university. A lot of it has to do with the more limited access to education in the townships. Another piece of it is role models. Not all of them have older siblings or parents who attended college who could lead by example. Running the sports camp has been great, and I hope they all learned soccer, rugby, and netball skills. But above all, I hope that I might have shared with the kids a little hope for a brighter future.
It is truly remarkable how GVI partners with communities. There are volunteers here for several months like Andy and Sian (our GVI leaders) that provide a good example and hope for these kids, whereas we were only here three weeks. I am grateful that I could contribute a small piece to that.