Note: This blog was written during my time in Cape Town, however due to difficulties with adequate internet connection, it is now being posted.
Make do with what you have…… A phrase that I recalled which was uttered frequently by my mother while growing up. As a single parent, this was her sentiments regarding our living circumstances at the time. Contextually speaking, here in South Africa, this phrase has brought on a whole new meaning.
Make do with what you have…… The first instance in which was reminded of my mother’s words was in the townships. We were invited into the home of a resident of the Langa Township. It was a relatively small two bedroom home in the informal housing area of the township. A home which would be considered “unfit for habitation” in the U.S., was a source of pride for the homeowner. Her face glistened as she proudly explained to us that this was a home she was happy to call her own. A space where her family was now afforded their privacy. A similar sense of pride in having a home was shared by another individual during our visit to a home in the Colored township of Hangberg. The woman explained that her home was damaged in a house fire, however, with the assistance of the community she was able to get the supplies necessary to rebuild the house.
Another instance which made me recall my mother’s words was my interaction with the NGOs we were partnered with; James House in particular, which was the organization I did my 3-day observation/internship. The organization provides child protection, youth developmental and empowerment services to vulnerable children, youth, and families in the Imizamo Yethu (IY) and Hangberg townships in Hout Bay. During my time at James House, I watched the employees use available resources to ensure that services were adequately delivered to the clients they served. It was readily apparent that the employees of James House were passionate and committed to the communities they worked on. I learned that although their resources were limited at times, they still did their best to ensure that the families still received assistance.
It is important to note that my remembrance of this phrase while here in South Africa came as a result of my interaction with Mercia, our guide of the social tour of the Solms Delta Wine. While discussing the details of what life was like for the farmers and the workers that maintain the wine lands, Mercia shared her personal story. She explained the obstacles the farm workers and their families experienced. Things such as poverty, low literacy, and alcohol misuse were stated as examples. Mercia then disclosed to us her personal struggles growing up on this exact land we were standing on. In spite of arduous circumstances and self-doubt she was able to become for first person on the farm to obtain education credentials. From her story is was also reminded of the quote: “accept things now how they are but know that it is not the end.”
So folks, my time here in Cape Town is unfortunately coming to an end. What has been two weeks has felt like two months. I have learned so much about myself and those around me. I have been challenged in such a way that I am critically assessing and reflecting on my life back in the U.S. In doing so, I am forced to ask myself the question on what do I place value and how does that shape my perspective. I am still formulating my response to this question.
In closing, I can truly say that I am going to be leaving here with a full heart after walking in with an open mind.