The African word “Sawubona” means “I see you.” The juniors at Mount Madonna School chose this name to represent their upcoming trip to South Africa. For the students this unusual learning journey will be about seeing and gaining a new understanding of people in a part of the world that is far different from the one in which we live. On June 18th sixteen students from the Mount Madonna School “Values in World Thought” program will leave for Cape Town, which is the first stop on a journey of a lifetime.
While in South Africa they will have an ambitious schedule that will include interviews, visits to schools, and engagements with several charitable causes. Just a few of the highlights in Cape Town will include: an interview with Nobel Peace Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and an interview with Pregs Govender, the Deputy Chair of the South African Human Rights Commission. They will also visit and engage with the children and staff at the Philani Child Nutrition Center in the township of Khayelitsha. In the township of Guguletu they meet the talented students at Fezeka High. Finally they will visit Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 21 years during Apartheid. While there they will have private interview with Thulani Mabaso, one of the former political prisoners.
The next stop will be Johannesburg where the students will interview the civil rights attorney and author of “A Different Time, Peter Harris, who represented the Delmas Four in the seminal trial during Apartheid years. They will also meet students at Thembisa high school, and visit Soweto Township. One of our major projects will be to spend time at the children’s Aids village at Botshabelo where 200 orphaned children, affected by the AID’s epidemic reside. This project was the subject of a movie called “Angels in the Dust.” When the students saw the movie, they asked to visit the children at Bothshabelo. After making contact with the founders and getting permission, the students have been collecting everything from clothing, to computers, diapers, toothbrushes and toys to take to the village. Emirates Airline has given the students an extra baggage allowance to transport the donations that will handed off during their stay. The students and their parents have also raised over $3,000 to distribute to the projects they will be visiting.
The last leg of the journey will take the students to Nkambeni Tent lodge near Kruger National Park to learn about the unique ecosystem of South Africa. They will visit this huge wildlife refuge for two days to develop an understanding of what it takes to conserve this important world treasure.
The students have been preparing all year to fully engage in this experience. They have been studying the history, culture, and ecology of South Africa. They have researched those they will be interviewing and have read the books written by Peter Harris, Pregs Govender and others. The year has also been one of continuous fundraising, both to pay for the trip, and to make sure that they could contribute to the charities they will visit.
Sawubona is a common greeting in parts of Africa. In the spirit of Sawubona (I see you), the students will develop an understanding that to truly see and be seen by another human being is a great gift. South Africa is a unique country with a unique history and has much to teach the world about our humanity. The students realize that whatever they are bringing as gifts and support is just as way of saying “thank you” for the gift of the human spirit they will receive from the people they meet.
If you wish to contribute to the projects we are visiting, you can call Mount Madonna School for more information and for a list of things that are being collected.