“The ACE in South Africa program is worth it to me because it is a great opportunity to volunteer in civic engagement and help make a positive difference in peoples’ lives. It is also a great way to diversify my own worldly experiences in hopes of improving myself as a member of my own community.”
As part of the ACE in South Africa program, participants will assist with basic healthcare initiatives, activity-based education and teaching, light construction, and sports programs in the community of Nomzamo township near Cape Town.
Araad’s past experiences with service include coaching youth in the Blue Blood Wrestling Club camp at Duke and serving as an ACTION mentor, helping first-year student-athletes with their transition to life in NCAA Division I athletics.
Araad is a senior on the Duke Wrestling Team and a Durham native. At Duke, he is pursuing a major in Political Science along with a minor in History and an MMS certificate. He is involved in Duke Athletics, showing commitment as a mentor for the ACTION program in addition to coaching youth for the Blue Blood Wrestling Club. Araad also works at Duke’s Franklin Humanities Institute. While in Cape Town, Araad grew close with the children of ACJ Primary School in Nomzamo Township and hopes to use his experiences to further develop his community engagement and expand his worldly perspective. Araad looks forward to giving back to the ACE program as an ACE ambassador to assist future participants in having the most positively influential and impactful experience they can. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family and close friends in Durham.
Want to hear more about Araad’s ACE experience? Contact Araad.
Dear Future #ACEathletes,
- Best advice for learning about ACE and each program: I selected the South Africa program after reading all the program descriptions on the ACE website in addition to talking to an old teammate who was also an ACE participant. I decided on South Africa because of the opportunity to teach sports in addition to women’s empowerment and health, which are essential rights to all people. In selecting a program, find what you are passionate about teaching while also picking a location with a culture you are interested in experiencing.
- Best advice for applying for ACE: Manage your time well and don’t procrastinate the application process. Take your time in completing all the material honestly and fully while talking on your strengths to find the best program fit for you. I knew I was qualified for the South Africa program given my past experience in coaching and working with youth, in addition to my passion to help others and serve the community.
- Best advice for getting started at your program: The first few days on base were the adjustment period. Taking it all in – the community, people, culture, and language – was an interesting vibe as we adjusted. The days were long but the weeks went by fast. Thankfully, our pre-departure meetings with our ACE Ambassadors did a great job of preparing us for what to expect and how to carry on with our day-to-day tasks efficiently. Our ACE team had a really good chemistry right off the bat and I think our personalities played a huge part in that. Our progress was seen in watching the kids improve in the sports we taught them, the women at the community centers developing typing and interview skills, and the progress we made on the greenhouse despite short time and adversity throughout the project.
- Tips for getting to know your community: I built relationships with the community, especially the children at the primary school, mainly by trying to understand their culture and them as individuals. Learning the local language and understanding norms showed the community members our commitment to getting to know them and their upbringing. Embracing the new culture and then exchanging similarities and differences between our own helped us to get to know each other better. Additionally, just being active in playing sports with the kids and getting to know them on a personal level was essential. I’ve always been a very open-minded person, especially when learning about cultures different from my own, but actually immersing myself in a new community helped expand my views to gain a more worldly perspective.
- Tips for training: We got the opportunity to go to a great gym every day and keep up with our training programs that we would do at home. Balancing training time was not an issue given that we were on a very efficient schedule. Training with other student-athletes was also a great experience to see how other teams train and even pick up a few training methods here and there as well.
- Tips for bringing ACE back to your team: When I got back from my ACE experience, I answered all questions from friends, teammates, and coaches to the full extent so they could understand the significance of the program and its mission. I shared what I learned while encouraging others to apply for the program so they may also experience the learned lessons from the trip. I additionally utilized the skills and new perspective I gained over my trip in my roles as a teammate and leader.
- Reasons for staying involved in ACE: I want to stay involved with ACE because I think it provides student-athletes not only the rare opportunity to travel abroad but also to learn important life lessons while gaining a holistic perspective of the world outside the US. ACE also offers student-athletes a great opportunity to engage in and assist a community other than their own.