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South Africa Update by Liz Pomeroy

June 25, 2012

It’s a strange feeling being home. Besides the obvious time change, subsequent jet lag, the availability of food, water, technology, and a heated house, the strange feeling comes from how easily we were transported into a different life, and how easily we were able to come back to our privileged society. Just a few days ago this amazing and skilled group was placed in a playground with physically disabled children, in an impoverished town run on an atmosphere of respect and love. After the first day of working in Masiphumelele, the car ride back became emotional as I was able to reflect on how these people live. The pure poverty is striking, but after a few days the loving atmosphere became apparent through the joy in the children, and the gratitude in those realizing the work we were doing. Seeing how happy a child was when given candy or a hug, and seeing a group of kids playing soccer on the smallest piece of land made me smile down to my core, but then seeing a child cry unnoticed walking down the street, or an abandoned dog with a severe injury would replace that happiness with another wave of realizing what each person must go through every day to survive and keep their family healthy.

What I have come to realize and what has struck me the most is the paradoxes in what we saw during these two weeks. In our drive along the coast near Cape Town we went from seeing modern houses set in the rock overlooking the water, to seeing shanti towns only two minutes away. Even in Enkosini when we were all still adjusting to not having phones or Internet or any connection to home, when Mr. Cashion or Leonard would pull out their computer, no one was in dire need of checking their Facebook; we enjoyed the isolation and not having to worry about anything other than tending to the fire and doing dishes. But now that we are home I bet we have all been on Facebook too much, checked our email several times, and texted our friends. So what happened to the simplicity we loved in Enkosini? Then of course at Masiphumelele the paradox of the delight in the children and the disturbing way they live.

This experience has taught me that recognizing these paradoxes is the best way to help places in need. Without taking a step back to compare situations, people and places to one another, we will never be able to truly see where we are needed and what makes people happy. This trip has truly been the most valuable experience that I have had, and I know that I will come back to these places to volunteer, work and maybe even live, because South Africa changed my life and now I want to give back to these communities.

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