In recalling my 3 week ACE experience in the surrounding area of Cape Town, South Africa, it’s difficult to give one single moment the title of most humbling. Instead, my most humbling moments were without a doubt the collective experience of building relationships with the children we worked with on a daily basis at the sports camp in Nomzamo Township.
From the first day at camp, the children generally had no trouble getting comfortable with us. “Teacher! Teacher!” The kids would yell, “look!” as they showed off their demonstrations of a drill we were working on in sports like basketball, rugby, track, and volleyball. Initially, I thought the children were mainly interested in us because we were foreign to them – our clothes, accents, mannerisms, etc. However, some children continued to ask about us – our lives back home in the US, our respective sports, our interests, and about pop culture references. When I said that I wrestled, many of the boys began yelling out the names of famous WWE wrestlers: “John Cena!” “Randy Couture!” as they proceeded to demonstrate moves like the RKO that they had seen on TV.
My most humbling moments were without a doubt the collective experience of building relationships with the children we worked with on a daily basis at the sports camp in Nomzamo Township.
The children’s persistence in getting to know us naturally led to us learning more about them. In the two short weeks of the sports camp, I got to know the majority of the kids that would show up everyday on a personal level and even had personalized handshakes with some of them individually. Despite knowing our time together was short, I whole-heartedly felt invested in learning more about them – their lives, interests, perceptions, and aspirations.
Getting to know these 9- to 13-year-olds on a personal level, despite the language and cultural barriers in addition to the significant age gap, was very humbling for me. It made me further realize that division and standardization of peoples through geography, ethnicity, and skin color is all arbitrary. These made-up lines have no concrete support and the fact that our society continues to divide people along physical features or varying ideologies is what continues to hold us back. Building close relationships with these children that live in a very different culture with different worldly perspectives points to the fact that open-mindedness is key to crossing cultural and ethnic lines and realizing that people we think are different from us are in fact very much the same.
As cliché as it sounds, at the end of the day, we’re all just people, and that these arbitrary differences we look for to separate ourselves into selective groups is not only useless, but is counter-productive to our potential as a whole. I feel that this is something I’ve always been told and known, but my experience through the ACE program emphasized what those words truly mean though a first-hand and personal perspective. For this, and the entire 3 week journey in South Africa, I am beyond grateful.