On Monday, we began volunteering in a township here in Cape Town called Delft. Delft is one of the most poverty-stricken areas of this country. It is also an area with high rates of HIV/Aids. As we drove through the community, the roads consisted of miles of trash and shacks built from metal and wood. It was easily one of the saddest things I have witnessed while being here. But luckily, our purpose of being there was to volunteer in order to fulfill any immediate needs of the community. We worked with an agency called Afrika Tikkun. With their help, we were able to cook a meal (curry chicken, rice, and vegetables) for over 400 people in Delft. We unloaded a truck full of fresh produce for other meals. We also had a BALL with the kids! They were literally bursting with energy, I loved it! Thankfully, Afrika Tikkun built a cement yard with a sizeable amount of space for them to play. This yard also acts as a safe space for the kids. Usually, many of them are at home taking care of duties that many of their parents cannot uphold due to unforgiving illnesses. It felt amazing to just be a friend for them and share that time of freedom with them.
Although communities like Delft are facing severe economic disparities, one thing that I've learned while being here is that you have to "come in right." That means being sensitive to the situation that you are approaching and being smart about your intentions. It also means letting go of the American perspective. What we think others may need might not be what they actually need. Helping the "American way" might not be the best. For example with Oprah's school for girls that she built in South Africa, it was a good concept, but unfortunately caused more turmoil than good. The school has a capacity of 150 girls. It's extremely luxurious, including things like fireplaces in each classroom. Many of the girls that attend that school have been tormented and raped...mainly because so many other people in the community desire the privileges that have been given to the lucky 150. It is argued that opposed to spending $22 million on one school, numerous schools with basic necessities could have been built. Thousands of children could have been served. Being a devil's advocate, one more school exists in the country that wouldn't have otherwise...but I do believe that resources could have been allocated differently, resulting in a more positive effect. I use this example to remind me that it's the simple things that matter in life. It is important to be knowledgeable about the situation that you are approaching when your goal is to "help", and to use that knowledge to "come in right."