Audrianna Irving | Dallas, TX – Cognitive Studies, 2017
Audrianna Irving is a member of the Class of 2017 from Dallas, Texas. She is majoring in Cognitive Studies with a minor in Corporate Strategy. This summer Audrianna will be participating in the OACS Global Service Program in South Africa. During the project she hopes to gain knowledge about Apartheid South Africa and the socioeconomic consequences that arose from it. She also will be working with Missionvale Care Centre, volunteering in their primary school, medical clinic, clothing warehouse and other community resources.
Blog Post One:
“Shhhh shhhh” we hear the students telling one another as we walk through the classroom. The teacher then stands, and we are welcomed by a chorus of good morning. This routine repeats as we make our way through the overflowing classrooms of the primary school. The last room on the right is a computer lab. There sits a room of thirty Dell computers that have never been used. Thirty computers lie in a room in which average number of students per class is double of what is recommended. This is the first time that I have truly felt useless. The government supplied the school with computers yet none of the work and no one can figure out why. The students are at a disadvantage because now they do not have access to a computer in this technology driven world. Here I am, an American, with my cell phone in my pocket and all of these students don’t have access to a computer. I inquire if there was anything that I could do, but she replied no and that they believe that there is a cord that they are all missing. She then went on to say that we are her American Ambassadors, that just by us being there we are doing them a great service. Just our presence was enough…I could not believe that and I foresee myself grappling with that statement for the next coming weeks.
Saturday, the 21st of May in the year 2016, this marks the end of my first week in South Africa. This week opened my eyes to just how similar situations are despite being miles apart. I had the opportunity to be in the city of Johannesburg or how the locals say “Joburg”. Joburg is a city in South Africa that got it origins when gold was found in the city. As millions of people rushed to the city to find gold, people of darker complexion were pushed out of the city and into different townships and suburbs. Skin tone is how the class system of South Africa came to be, Whites were the highest class followed by Asian, Indian, and Coloured, with Blacks being the lowest class.
The disparities between the classes here is similar to what you would see in the United States. As America is still being affected by injustices of slavery, South Africa is still being plagued by Apartheid. We see this through every aspect of the community. The best schools are in the predominantly white neighborhood, the “safest” parts are in the predominantly white neighborhoods , and property values are the highest in the predominantly white neighborhoods. Throughout the city you can go from seeing slums on one street and then three blocks down you are in a middle class area. The area changes quickly, yet you get the feeling that is very few mixing that goes on, it is as if everyone knows their “place.” This divide mimics the situation that happened during apartheid. Through talking with the community, I learned that even though everyone now has political freedom, economically things have not changed. This has caused me to vow to only spend money local Black businesses as they are the group that is struggling the most.
There is a shining hope though. The members of the community that I interacted with are ready for change and are actively pursuing avenues in which to achieve it. This week, taking emails, pouring into their economy and learning exactly what is needed is a solid beginning to what I know will be a life changing experience for both me and the South African community.
Blog Post Two:
*Name has been changed to protect identity. The details included about John’s life are being shared with his permission.
As I look around the room, a stream of emotions encompasses me: love, strength, joy, resilience, and determination. These past weeks I have had the privilege to work with many different people at Missionvale. These people are the ones that keep this NGO running. Without them, the services that are provided to the community would cease to exist. The people that I met this week give their all every day in order to benefit the lives of others. You will rarely ever see them, without a smile on their face. They continuously give and ask for nothing in return. Their giving heart and resilience impacted me more than I could have imagined and meeting John* has changed the way I view my situation.
I met John when I worked in the agricultural department. We would go out into the community and walk about 3.5 miles in order to gather manure and wheel it back. This strenuous, labor-intensive process took a long time and was physically tolling. Even as it was hard work, I knew that I was making a difference. We were able to carry twice as much back because he had my help and this allowed us to be able to till more of the land and plant more vegetables that would later be given out, for free, to the local community. On one of our walks back, he told me about his family. John is twenty-four years old and has been working at Missionvale Care Center for four years. At the age of sixteen he was in the 7th grade and that was the last year of schooling he had. John dropped out and found work doing construction. He was able to secure a two-year job with a construction company. After his two year commitment John found himself doing odd jobs until he found Missionvale Care Center. John has been working there now for 4 years. John was an orphan. Both of his parents died of what he calls “The Sickness”, the sickness, I later find out is HIV/AIDS. Luckily for John his aunt and uncle took him in and he continues to live with them today. The home that he lives in does not have running water nor a toilet but it is with two people that love him. And those are the only two people that John can call a family, he confided in me that every time he gets close to someone he finds out that the have The Sickness and they too soon pass on. As he only has a 7th grade education, John was never able to fully learn English like many people in South Africa. His main language is Xhosa as that is his mother tongue.
Although John has lived a hard life, John continues to persevere. He is now learning to speak English and Afrikaans. He is learning how to write and is staying out of trouble. John vowed not to let his situation gets the best of him. As his aunt has now also been infected with The Sickness, it just gives him more of a push to power on. People like John give me the hope to continue on day to day. He is a living example of how you should not let your situation get the best of you, that you have to keep pushing on regardless of what has happened to you.