It has been 16 days since the 14 of us first left for Johannesburg, anxious and waiting to see what we we had been preparing for months for. Personally I had no clue what to expect. In someways I think I thought I was going to be walking into the Disney classic, The Lion King, except with more people and less talking animals. I didn’t want to accept the history I had learned throughout our classes, knowing how terrible their situations may be when we arrive was not something I wanted to think about. I hoped for the best, and what we saw was certainly not that.
Within our first drive from the airport we saw shacks, barbed wire fences, and living conditions I never thought livable. I felt awful for them and couldn’t wait to get our service projects started so we could help these people! It was heart-wrenching to know that while we slept in our comfortable beds with heat and running water, so many outside the gates of our hotel didn’t have even one of those things. I don’t believe it really hit me how lucky we were (and still are) until day 1 of our service projects. On that day some of us were able to go inside the home of a woman who lived in a shack and really see what the conditions were like.
It was hard for me to be in there, not only from the smell, the bugs, the dirt, and knowing someone lived there, but because I realized how lucky I am, and how much I take for granted. I felt so awful for doing that, and for only being able to help her so much by only working on the garden in her community. I wanted to do more! Seeing the shacks as we passed by was one thing, but to be actually be in one and see how a person lives every day, was really an eye-opening experience and made me really think about how I live my life everyday.
As we left South Africa today, I kept thinking how this isn’t the only place in the world that needs our help. I have decided that even though my trip to South Africa is over, my trip in life has just begun. I plan to continue to help others in the world, whether it be in my town or across the globe.
This was just the first chapter of many.
The people we have helped are just the start of what I hope to be a long list of people I will make an impact on. Whether it be working on more vegetable gardens, painting murals at a school, or picking up glass from a playground, I hope to make a difference in others lives not just in South Africa, but around the world. This chapter may be over, but there is another one soon to begun once I turn the page.