It’s always a fun exchange when we have to opportunity to communicate with Tamarin who, if you didn’t already know, lives in South Africa. Not very often do I have the chance to talk to someone who is halfway around the world while I sit in my university’s classroom. Every week we watch movies on the history of South Africa but Tamarin is our window into South Africa as it is today. I love hearing about the kids and about the small activities that make them small like all children should.
In class we were discussing some of our service projects and trying to get a feel for how such projects could be completed during our time in South Africa. It is extremely hard to separate our way of thinking in the United States from the realities of the South African culture. Sometimes I find myself making assumptions about the accessibility of materials or resources only to realize they are extremely unattainable once we are over there. In one such instance my imagination got the best of me and I was imagining a playground area inside and one outside for the kids. I was quickly thrust back into reality when Tamarin described her experience at the school on the previous day.
The children were playing make believe and being fairies in a field when Tamarin realized they were using old rusted, and probably tetanus filled, tin covers as plates and play equipment. Had a similar scene occurred in the United States there would be uproar
surrounding the adult that allowed their child to do such a thing.
I forget to remove myself from this reality, and place it in their reality. It also isn’t as easy as dreaming of having endless resources and ample money to put into the projects. I could picture some company donating a large sum of money to our cause and how we could build such beautiful gardens, libraries and play structures for the children. Of course, like so many other instances, I am reminded that this isn’t what they need. Tamarin explained such a thing as South Africa running before they are even able to walk. To me money seems to be the answer in making them happy because it would allow us to provide them with so much more, but I know that what we can give them will be even better. South Africa doesn’t need fancy play structures or large luxurious gardens, they need sustainability and a way to make a living off the land.
In class we also began to discuss the Have You Heard from Johannesburg? documentaries that we have been watching and blogging about through the semester. I enjoyed hearing from other class members about what points in history really stuck out to them or left a mark. I have always focused more on the children and on the influence of the younger generations where as some other classmates were more interested in the government’s role and the role of other countries.
It was brought up that Nelson Mandela is in his nineties and that he will eventually pass away, taking with him so much of what holds South Africa together. I couldn’t help but wonder the state of South Africa after he passes away.
Will they regress?
Will old faults reemerge?
Will a sense of black community and strength be lost with him?