South Africa 2011

Road from the school into the village of  Hamburg South Africa

A number of our friends and family have asked me to write about our volunteer adventure in South Africa in February and March of 2011. The questions most asked are:

Why did you do it?

Why South Africa?

What did you do?

I’ll answer as best I can in this blog.

Why did you do it?

Not only people here in Canada asked that question. The people we worked with in South Africa also asked it, especially when they found out we weren’t connected to any government organization or church group.

“Why did you come so far and spend so much money to help people you don’t even know?”


Was it guilt? Do I burden myself with the historic guilt of white ancestors who may have exploited or even killed Xhosa and Zulu people of South Africa?  For a long time I felt smug that my Norwegian ancestry had nothing to do with South Africa. Then I ran across an old Norwegian Lutheran mission church in Eshowe, on a previous trip. There they were – those stern Norwegian missionaries in their stiff white collars and dark suits; the wives in long dresses and high necklines. Beside them stood their Zulu converts dressed in the same restrictive clothing. How did they manage in 35c degree heat? That was exploitation enough for me. However, as my son says “I don’t do guilt.” It is poor motivation and a huge waste of energy.

Noble cause? Sure. I’ve always been a sucker for a good inspiring story and Keiskamma Trust has a good one. Turning a village and now a whole region, from despair to hope makes your heart sing.

Connection? That’s probably the strongest reason. Connecting with people, broadening understanding, learning new perspectives, sharing. Within myself I could easily be a hermit – curl up in a cabin in the woods with a pile of books and never connect to another soul. However, the world, including me wouldn’t survive in the long run, without connections. If I’ve learned anything working with First nations people in both Canada and South Africa it is that all things are connected. On the trip I wanted to honour those connections and maybe in a tiny way, make a difference.

Being grateful?  That was also a strong reason. Having won the ovarian lottery by being born in North America I have a great deal to be grateful for. It was time to share.

Next post – why South Africa?



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