Our first official interview as a class was with Pregs Govender This interview prepared us for our conversation with Desmond Tutu later in the day. Since we now had a feel for what an interview was like, we felt ready to take on our next one.
From the second Desmond Tutu came into the hall to greet us, every moment was filled with laughter and joy. Even when he was in the deepest moments of contemplation his joy was present and would bubble up without notice. I found Desmond Tutu to be a very inspirational man. His slow and thoughtful responses to our questions went deep into the topics and brought out stories from his past that we had not already learned about.
Desmond Tutu was the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. During his response to our question about how forgiveness truly works, he caught my attention because he readily admitted that it is hard to forgive. He said that it is valid for some people to never forgive others but that they are losing an amazing opportunity to allow closure for both themselves and the perpetrator. It was an amazing interview and one that I will never forget.
Today…oh today! We interviewed Desmond Tutu! He is a respected wiseman with a great sense of humor. Archbishop Tutu gave interesting responses to our questions . When answering one of our questions he told the story of when the shepherd went to find his lost sheep. He explained that the sheep that wanders off is always the troublesome one and yet the shepherd still takes the time to search for it. This was a metaphor for how God loves every one of us, even the “troublesome” ones. It intrigued me to hear someone talk about something with such passion and love. Although I am not religious, I found this inspiring, and the conversation made me feel like it’s okay to believe in something higher or bigger than myself.
As the clock struck 12:30 P.M. in Cape Town the moment we had spent months preparing for finally arrived. But despite all our preparation, Desmond Tutu’s sudden appearance caught us all by surprise.
In our earlier interview with Pregs Govender, we set up the film equipment in the room early and were settled and ready in our assigned seats long before she arrived. When we arrived at the building where we would interview Desmond Tutu we did not enter the room right away but instead waited leisurely outside, helping ourselves to the sodas offered to us by one of the employees. Suddenly, out of the blue, Desmond Tutu appeared and we had to hastily stuff our journals and drinks under one arm in order to shake his hand. However, as soon as we took our seats and he began his opening statement, all our tension and apprehension melted away. He spoke humorously and almost every sentence was followed by a hearty laugh. Yet when he spoke his words were deep and profound and his insightful responses completely sealed his position in my mind as a great world thinker. His merry yet eloquent manner set us all at ease and I was reminded of Pregs Govender’s advice that “humor always helps.” The events of today leave no doubt in my mind about the profound truth and wisdom in these words.
Courage. Today we were given the incredible opportunity to interview a woman that embodies the very essence of this word. Pregs Govender, a feminist activist and former member of the South African Parliament, has dedicated her life to fighting injustice. Through the process of working to stop strip-searching at the country’s mining union, standing up as the only member of the ANC to opposing a large arms deal in 2001, and working at the humans’ right commission to provide water to all, Govender has exemplified passion, commitment, and love throughout her professional career.
Having researched and learned about her numerous accomplishments, I can’t deny I was intimidated to interview her. However, the moment she walked into the room my apprehensions were lifted. Her demeanor was composed yet passionate, calm yet determined, and wise yet curious. Despite her many successes, she remained modest and genuine.
Throughout the interview, she openly acknowledged the fears she faced throughout her fight for justice, humanizing the experience and portraying courage in a whole new light. Within our society, courage is often associated with fearlessness and aggression. Govender used her story to broaden this definition by revealing that true courage is not about having no fears, but rather using those fears to ignite action. Her honest words helped me come to the empowering realization that passion is inextricably linked to courage. I do not need to be overtly outspoken, daring, or bold in order to be courageous. I must simply find something worth fighting for.
As Pregs Govender walked into the room her smile captured my heart. She brought a silent fiery passion to the room. She spoke softly but with such deep meaning and compassion.
The importance of remaining true to oneself, the need to be centered and recognizing the dignity within oneself were three pieces of advice given to us by Ms. Govender.
This advice stuck with me because without staying true to yourself you cannot achieve your goals and the dreams you have made. Without centering yourself you can not focus on the goals you set and without dignity you can not gain respect.
The Chaeli Campaign was founded when Chaeli Mycroft, with her sister, and three friends decided to raise the funds to buy Chaeli an electric wheelchair. Once this task was accomplished, they fundraised money to buy electric wheelchairs for other disabled children across South Africa. I was amazed by these five beautiful young women; they showed me that with an idea and some willpower, I can accomplish anything.
What was so inspiring about Chaeli was that she does not let her cerebral palsy run her life. She has a presence that draws people in, and a spark in her eye that radiates intelligence.
Chaeli participates in wheelchair dancing, something I can tell brings so much joy to her. As a dancer myself, she revolutionized my formerly conventional idea of dance. Before, dance was the way in which you move your body to convey emotion. Dance meant leaps, jumps, and turns. However, Chaeli showed me that dance is not just about your physical capabilities, but your emotional ones as well. In her wheelchair, Chaeli is a beautiful dancer whose passion I can learn so much from.
During our farewells, Chaeli’s mother Zelda and I shared a warm hug. She looked me in the eye and said, “Your face is like a shining light. Always keep smiling.” I will always try to stay positive, armed with the new knowledge that I can do anything that I set my mind to. I am so thankful to Chaeli for teaching me this important life lesson; she will stay in my heart forever.
Our last stop of the day was at an organization for disabled children called Chaeli’s Campaign. When we arrived at the house, the foundation’s CEO who is the mother of Chaeli immediately welcomed us. Chaeli, her sister and her three closest friends founded Chaeli’s Campaign seven years ago. The connection and devotion that Chaeli and her three friends have is something people strive for their whole life.
Chaeli’s family and friends’ goal was to raise 20,000 rands for Chaeli to get an electric wheelchair to make activities more easily accessible. The small group of young girls raised the money in just seven weeks. Once they saw how much Chaeli enjoyed her new wheelchair, the group of girls decided to create an organization to help other disabled children and families in need of support. Chaeli’s Campaign was quickly formed and now offers support groups for parents and siblings with disabled family members.
I have never felt more warmth and happiness in a new surrounding than when we walked into that house. When they shared their story, it was clear that they weren’t ashamed of who they were or their struggle. Instead they embraced it. This really touched me because it made me more comfortable with myself. It made me realize never to be shy or embarrassed about a struggle I encounter in life. Chaeli has had a huge struggle yet still has been able to lead a normal life full of poetry, art and dance.