Ubuntu: I am because we are, therefore we are because I am

The Circle of Courage is a tool used by many South African Social Workers in assessments. It helps them understand their clients better as well as assist in the creation of Individual Development Plans (IDPs). In the Circle of Courage, the first quadrant represents the sense of Belonging. This sense of belonging could very much be associated with attachment and community, and those are two things that I found and felt very strongly on this trip. After only two and a half weeks I felt a stronger sense of belonging with the community and people I met in South Africa than I have in many of the other communities I have been a part of for much longer. Having a strong sense of belonging then helped me to develop myself in the other three quadrants throughout this experience: Independence, Generosity, and Mastery. Understanding where I was in my process through these four quadrants on this trip, helped me better understand where I am in the development of these four quadrants in my life and allowed me to set some goals for my personal and professional selves.

The sense of belonging that I felt, and the similarities that I saw between my work and world here in the U.S. and their work and worlds in South Africa, reminded me of a term that has continued to come up during this course: Ubuntu. We first learned about Ubuntu in class and it struck a chord with me. After that initial introduction to the term, I didn’t think much about it until I read it again on a soda can while in Switzerland. Finally, as soon as I walked into The Backpack Hostel, there was a bag hanging in their shop that had the term on it. Beginning this trip and experience with the term Ubuntu, and its meaning, ingrained in the back of my mind helped to magnify the moments when our similarities outweighed our differences. It also reminded me that we are all connected to one another regardless of our backgrounds or experiences. On the most basic level, we are all human beings with a heart and passion, who are at our own places in our personal Circles of Courage. Being able to remember this helps to bring a bit more humanity and humility to ourselves and the people who we encounter in our lives.

As I have tried to rehash my experiences and learning in South Africa, I find myself struggling to explain the trip as anything more than beautiful, incredible, and life-changing. I think part of that is because it is almost impossible to properly, and completely, explain and describe all of the feelings, moments, and connections that were created during the past two and a half weeks. However, I think the term ubuntu perfectly sums up the most essential parts of my learning in South Africa. I am forever indebted and appreciative to all of the individuals who made this experience possible. This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that has made such an enormous influence on me, and that I know will continue to influence my life.

Ubuntu in Switzerland


Circle of Courage Beaded Bracelets

The Most Incredible Group of Human Beings

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