Friday, April 1, 2011

A Few New Perspectives


Last week I was able to have new experiences of Cape Town, giving me different perspectives of the city.  I visited a few of the townships during a tour of a non-profit, road in the mini taxes, went to the Old Biscuit Mill local market, volunteered at the Cape Argus cycle tour, engaged in interesting class discussions, and had a nice dinner with my host family.  Below are the details of my last few weeks, and reflections on what I have had the pleasure of seeing.

ABALIMI BEZEKHAYA:  "Farmers of Home" is a non-profit organization that I stumbled upon via my Rotary Host (thanks Terrence).  The organization has been established for almost 30 years with the goal to alleviate hunger in low-income communities through sustainable and organic micro-farming initiatives.  Abalimi means "the planter" in Xhosa, which is the main language in the communities that the organization targets.  The farmers involved in Abalimi have traditionally been the elderly women of the community who are taught how to create and maintain gardens that will sustain them throughout the seasons and provide nutrition for their families.  These women then hold workshops to teach other women throughout the townships how to create their own small plots.  I spent the morning on Tuesday touring the large community plots, the training facility, and the Harvest for Hope shed (where the vegetables are brought to distribute to the community).  It was a fascinating morning where I had the pleasure of meeting some of the head farmers in Nyanga  and Phillipi (two townships outside of Cape Town).  For those who are unfamiliar with this term, townships are low-income communities formed under apartheid government and therefore are primarily black communities.  I was incredibly impressed by the organization for several reasons.  Not only were the gardens large plots of land on previously abandoned waste land, but the director of the organization refuses to sell the vegetables produced to any individual or company who does not believe in the principals behind the organization.  If you'd like to know more about the non-profit, you can check out the website:  The part of the project that i'm currently getting involved in is Harvest for Hope.  I help pack boxes every week that are sold to people around the Southern Suburbs at various schools.  The manager of the non-profit makes sure that all of the community members that buy the vegetables in the Harvest for Hope boxes understand where the food comes from and why it is important to buy locally.  It is a fascinating organization and I look forward to telling many more stories. 

UNDERSTANDING A NEW CULTURE OF SERVICE: In addition to seeing the projects Abalimi runs, I was able to have a variety of conversations that helped me understand the culture of service in Cape Town a bit more.  When I first met the head female farmer in Nyanga, she shook my hand and asked me where I was from.  I responded explaining I was from the states and would like to volunteer.  She took my shoulder and said "you must date a white man, and bring him here with you to volunteer".  Later, I asked the women who drove me back to my apartment why this comment would have been made.  They explained that most people that volunteer here are foreigners, and South Africans at my age are not pushed to volunteer.  It made me think about all of the systems in place in the U.S. that help promote our age group to volunteer for our communities.  I realized how many various factors are involved with the service movement, and it changed my perspective from one of frustration to appreciation for the opportunities we are given in the states.  It did however lead me to question Is volunteering linked to wealth and comfort? or Has the U.S. just included it in the system to a degree that provides more opportunities for young people to volunteer than in South Africa?  Though the culture of volunteering is stronger for National residents in the States compared to here, I think the interconnectedness of the organizations in South Africa is something to look at.  In conversation with various professionals in the service field at dinner one evening, I started to really consider how non-profits function here and network.  On the whole, it feels much more like a giant network where everyone shares information and works together with less structure and hierarchical organization than many of the non-profits in the states.  This seems to work very well here and provide strong relationships among organizations and in turn greater support for community members.

TYPICAL SOUTH AFRICAN SATURDAY:  On the lighter end of things, I have been able to see and do a variety of wonderful activities in and outside of Cape Town.  Two Saturdays ago I had the pleasure of spending the morning / afternoon participating in "typical South African" traditions, some specific to Cape Town.  It started with a Jammie Ride to UCT where I was picked up by some friends.  Then, we jumped in a mini-tax, my first mini-taxi experience, and headed to Woodstock.  For those of you that aren't familiar, mini-taxes are inexpensive, taxi-vans that take people to various parts of the city.  They do not have the safest reputation, but they are accessible and inexpensive.  At Woodstock we went to the Old Biscuit Mill which is this large market with all sorts of food.  There were all kinds of different people there and so much to eat!  I had a routi (typical South AFrican meal).  A Routi is a type of curry wrapped in a warm tortilla, and it is delicious!  We then grabbed dessert and headed to the waterfront (again via mini-taxi) where we ate our dessert on a boat ride around the harbor.  It was a fantastic afternoon with very cool people who were extremely excited to share all of these South AFrican traditions with me.  The next morning I volunteered for the Argus Cycle tour which is a famous bicycle tour around the Cape Argus.  I met a lot of different people, and saw the cyclists off on their 100K journey.  The following weekend I attended an all day concert with local South African artists where I could hear a lot of the music i've been listening to since my last visit.  I also participated in a Rotary Event with the Seapoint Rotary club painting a fence around a park.  It was a very nice community event with lots of kids, families, and people from all different walks of life.

For the weekend I went to Hermanus, which is about an hour along the coast (worth googling) for part of my vacation from university.  I spent the weekend relaxing, walking along the coast and even got to Sea Kayaking!  I had an awesome seafood lunch at Beintang's Cave which is a restaurant right along the coast. 

Yesterday, I went back to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was in prison during Apartheid.  I had been before in 2008 during a history and culture course and had the pleasure of returning with some friends who were visiting from the states.  It is a very intense place to visit, thinking about all of the inequalities and torture during Apartheid government let alone hearing it from a past prisoner.  It is indescribable the way this country has turned out after such a torrential time for most of it's people.  Yet, the past is the past and you can see that it is behind them.  It is fascinating learning about all of the leaders that were able to make the end of apartheid so peaceful.

No comments:

Post a Comment