Reflections on Winter Break Service Learning in South Africa
Jan Brooks, Human and Community Development
This past winter break I directed my fifth HDFS Winter Break Study Abroad/Volunteer Experience trip to Cape Town, South Africa. Though every trip has been a wonderful learning experience with aspects of summer vacation rolled in for the students, this past winter’s trip was just an amazingly positive one. Thanks go to an outstanding group of students this year. The 16 participants were wonderful to work with, receptive to learning about the perspectives of new communities of people, dedicated to their volunteer work, and they took the preparation offered by the pre-departure course very seriously. Much credit goes to my daughter Jess Dickson, who after living in Cape Town for 3 years of graduate study at The University of Cape Town, put in endless hours of volunteer time to help me teach the historical and current contexts of the various people in South Africa, and offered top notch safety tips and favorite restaurant suggestions, along with unfailing early morning organization to get everyone off to their work sites and tours. The staff at the students’ work sites--orphanages and township health clinics--were so willing to take our short term volunteers into their tough daily schedules and offer work experience as well as friendship. Additionally, we had excellent support daily from our “on ground South African support team” from Volunteer Adventure Corps, Sean, Sedick, Ivy, and Andrew. The highlight of the trip was certainly the farewell braai (barbecue) hosted by Andrew, his wife Takiyah, and his sister Ivy at their home in the township of Nyanga, where we were greeted with much enthusiasm by the entire neighborhood. Now that we’re home, I think every one of us is thinking about the next opportunity to visit our good friends in Cape Town!