Thursday, August 27, 2009

If I had a super power...

Another great week has almost gone by, which is making me realize that time here is going too quickly and I would love time to stop because I am still enjoying every minute of it!

Monday I was able to go spend time with the kids at Ubuntu for 2 hours, which was great. They remind me why I put in the busy work.  They are all so beautiful and full of life, and most of the time that I am there I do not even think about the fact that they have HIV.  But then one boy walks in with the eyes of an 80-year-old man who has had a long suffering life, and then I remember that I can hardly imagine what these young children have gone through in their short years.  It is truly humbling to say the least.

Wednesday was a busy and exciting day. First, Brigid and I got to meet with the 15 mothers whom we are trying to set up the income-generating project for.  They were really interesting in crafting, possibly making scarves or bags that we could sell in the States to make more of a profit for them. We are still trying to get them trained, but if you have any suggestions please give me a shout!  After this meeting, our whole group got to go to parliament to see Jacob Zuma, the recently elected president of South Africa, speak.  It was a type of question/answer forum with the members of parliament and we got to sit and observe! It was many things: interesting, frustrating, informative, confusing, hopeful, and much different than I imagined.  But it was such an opportunity to see him speak and I am so happy that we had it.  Right after that we got to go to the book signing of Manuel Castells, the philosopher who we saw speak a few weeks ago.  This man is the 5th most cited philosopher ever and has done some really incredible things in his life.  He is pretty much a really big deal (described as the “Karl Marx” of our time) and we got to hear him talk about his book! It was really interesting because he worked with the Obama campaign, so he actually talked a lot about that which we all loved of course.

Today Brigid and I had a meeting with another NGO, Home from Home, which was so amazing. They are such an established and inspiring non-profit that we are going to learn so much from to help with the expansion of Ubuntu.  We also met with a woman who is starting an NGO that places long-term volunteers with non-profits in Cape Town, so if anyone would like to volunteer for 6 months to a year and has a specific skill, look her up!!

Tonight we are going out to a club called Hemisphere to celebrate the busy week. It is at the top of a hotel building and is very classy, so we will be thriving for sure!

Love to everyone!!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

T.I.A. (This is Africa)

Hello again! Sorry about the delay, but here you go…a

About two weeks ago Briged and I (Briged is the other girl in my program who is working at Ubuntu with me) went to the office of Khayelitsha Cookies, an NGO that employs women from the townships. They were so kind and receptive to us and made us really believe that we could start our own food business for our 15-20 mothers making muffins or something.  After talking to Whitney and Angie, it seems that we really are going to start some type of business while we are here.  This is all very exciting and has a lot more detail but I will fill you in when we straighten it out for ourselves!  Then last week, I went with Whitney and Angie to a meeting with Nazareth House, a Catholic center run by nuns.  They take in abandoned and needy children, often orphans, and either try to find their extended family or just keep them at the center.  They really do amazing things and I recommend you look at their website.  The best part was their program for kids with disabilities.  In South Africa, people with disabilities are not accepted and are practically ostracized in society.  This is obviously a topic that is close to my heart because of Best Buddies, so I was very happy to see a place that where they were welcome and loved.  It made me want to come back here and start a home for kids with disabilities…but that’s thinking in the way future…

Other great things that happened since the last time I wrote:

  • Bo-Kaap, the Muslim neighborhood with all the multi-colored houses.  They have so much tradition and culture, and we got to eat a traditional meal that was wonderful.  It’s a must for any visitor!

  • The South African Museum: where we got to see a planetarium star show for about $1 and it was awesome! And then the man who worked in the star show gave us a private showing of the Cape Town night sky…highlight of the weekend!

  • This last Friday we had a tour of parliament and then a lecture by a man who was one of the head people of the TRC (truth and reconciliation commission).  For those who do not know what this is, you should look it up, but basically it was South Africa’s way of dealing with the conflicts of Apartheid and included conditional amnesty and documentation of the crimes committed, etc…  This man was amazing!!! He had done so much in his life and really made us think about conflict resolution.  I feel so lucky that each lecturer seems to be better than the last and I continue to be in awe of this country’s recent history.

  • Today we hiked Lion’s Head, a part of Table Mountain, and the views from the top were incredible! I don’t think I have ever seen the ocean from a nearly 200-degree view with the mountain right in the background.  Spectacular! (see my facebook for pics)

Basically, it is hard to recount what I have been doing because the emotions and the thoughts just overtake my mind.  I continue to see all of the inequality and then see great things people are doing.  I have been questioning my purpose and questioning why I am drawn to these people and this country.  And I can’t help but feel somewhat helpless at times.  But earlier this week at the Catholic center Nazareth House, I realized that these nuns were serving the people solely because it is God’s work.  I don’t mean to sound preachy or religious, but it was a great thing to see that there doesn’t have to be a reason or an explanation for everything, it just needs to be done through the heart.  I am still learning and taking it all in, and I am sorry I am not being more in-depth in my explanation now, but I really am thinking of you all the time.  I will try to write more often so it is not a novel every time!  much love

Monday, August 10, 2009

the "service-learning" begins...yay!

Hey sorry for the lack of blogging that has been going on in my life lately.  Basically for a short excuse, there is just so much to take in here that the last thing I really want to do at the end of the day is write about it.  But here I am to update you all!

So I started my service this last week at Ubuntu Africa, a nonprofit in the township of Khayelitsha (pronounced Kai-leetch-a).  Ubuntu is an after-school type program with kids 4-18 years old who are HIV positive.  At the center the kids play games, have one-on-one counseling, have one meal (usually their only meal for the day), and learn about nutrition and health and whatnot.  Basically, it is a safe place for these kids to go after school and have a community with kids like them.  All but one of them is from single parent homes or foster homes because they have lost their parents to AIDS. 

Khayelitsha is the biggest township in Cape Town and has about 2 million people living there.  The majority of people live in one-room shacks made out of sheet metal.  The HIV rate for children is about 40%.  There are hundreds of non-profits working in the area and it seems from first impressions that they are barely scratching the surface of a giant wound.  That may seem really negative, and I really don’t mean it like that. It is just that it gets to be a little frustrating to want to help so much and to not really be able to.  But I also know that I am lucky to be able to affect just a few people’s lives and so I am thankful for that.

At Ubuntu I am working with my housemate and friend Briged.  We have three projects that were given to us for our time here. The first is to put together a database of the nonprofits in the area.  We are going to be meeting with them and learning what they are all about so we can see how they can help us and we could help them.  It will be great to talk to other institutions to see how they work.  The second project is to find some type of income generating venture for the 15-20 highly involved mothers of the center.  They currently have no source of income so we are looking to find them jobs, either by starting their own business with a micro credit loan or to join another project that is already in place.  The last project is to create some type of book for the center that includes writing and artwork from the kids, parents, workers, and more.  This will hopefully be a good way to fundraise and spread awareness about Ubuntu. 

All in all, the service is going to be a lot of work and keep me very busy here in Africa.  But I really couldn’t ask for anything more.  I am so so so excited to get started on all of these projects and really be a big part of this organization.  It only started two years ago, so our place will be very large and a big help I think.  I will let you know more how it goes once we get more into it, but initially that I all I am doing there.

On a different note, this weekend was pretty crazy and fun because it is Women’s Day today so we didn’t have classes or anything.  On Friday we had a braai (or bbq) with our local friends and our neighbors who are a part of the arts and science program with CIEE.  Then on Saturday we went to bar to watch the South Africa vs. Australia rugby game.  It was a very important game and South Africa won so that was great! Then yesterday we went to Misoli’s, the restaurant where we ate with our hands in the township of Langa.  On Sundays all the locals and a bunch of tourists come in and they have a DJ and things get pretty crazy.  We were there all day hanging out with our local friends and some new people and celebrating Women’s Day! Yay women!

Ok, well that is about it for me! I would love to get emails with updates about how everything is going at home, wherever that may be! Miss you all and I promise I will try to be better about blogging so they are not essays every time!