Time Capsule Letter
Hello again students!
After a few months re-adjusting to life at home, I hope this message finds you all well. More important, I hope it finds you growing in your leadership and continuing to live out the values we all encountered in our beautiful home in Geluksburg!
I know, for our staff team, the Aloe, Thorn Tree, Shield, and Nguni have made a lasting impact on the way we see ourselves, the world, and our role in it. Do you remember what each one stands for (Community Living, Equality & Integration; Personal Growth & Development; Building Cultural Capital; Inclusivity & Diversity)? And how about those amazing posters we created on our first weekend at Homeground! You all were amazing, working together, collaborating, creating, and growing in our understanding of South African values and principles.
As we reminisce, a few memories really stand out. I hope they remind you of some of these amazing moments from our short time together, back in July…
Zulu dancing with the local dance troupe:
Talk about breaking out of your shell! I know for a few of you, the Zulu dancing felt a bit intimidating, given the intense nature of the leg flexibility and slamming your foot in the ground. But, it definitely brought us together to learn more about the Zulu culture while having a fun time! You should all be proud of partaking in this activity, whether you have two left feet, are a skilled dancer, or maybe you got your groove back.
Just remember how you felt as you danced and how it didn’t matter if you got the steps right. All that mattered was that you were expressing yourself in the way that allowed you to be you! Revisiting these dances during our drumming event, talent show, Afro-pop dance lesson, and our almost daily song and dance with Sifiso & Aubry reinforced these ideals for me, as well.
Mandela day service activity (beautifying the reading room at the Community Center):
What a great service day in honor of Mandela Day! All your hard work cleaning the windows, sorting and organizing books, assembling and painting shelves (and stocking them with books), and painting a lovely mural will certainly be enjoyed by the local children and community for years to come!
Remember how the students at the school worked together to provide an awesome tribute to Mandela with their songs and dances? Hopefully that inspired you to come together to brainstorm on how you can continue service in your schools and/or communities! Perhaps some of you may be inspired to raise money in your hometowns to continue projects such as this one or even think of ways to help this particular library.
A look back at our time together wouldn’t be complete without recalling the life transformation we saw in one another. Sharing our gratitude and expressing the way we have grown during our last meeting together will stay with me forever. New insights into our own personal growth were expressed and I left truly inspired to continue to #bethechange in my life back home. I hope you were too.
Speaking of “being the change”, how is your OMG (One Meaningful Goal) coming along? Collectively, we committed to raising awareness of the rural South African healthcare systems & what gaps we saw during our visits to clinics and hospitals. We also committed to working together to raise money to continue supporting Sportstec, as they teach local students about healthy living through the Sports2life curriculum. Have you started that GoFundMe?
Have you held an informational meeting at your school? Have you met with school leaders to host a workshop on awareness and ways to get involved? Have you kept in touch with one another, challenging each other to rise up and follow through on those commitments?
I know, from us at GLA, we would love to hear how things are going. We’d love to know what has had the greatest impact on you since you returned home. If you’d like, send GLA an email and let us know how things are coming along, if you’d like additional support, or if you have any relevant updates on the progress you’ve made in your own community!
We may be separated by many miles today, but our time together in Geluksburg will forever bond us together. I believe in you. I have confidence that you all will #bethechange in your own way. Keep at it! Go for it! Don’t give up! #ondelay #andale
With gratitude & optimism,
Jen, Veronica, Mark & Brett
Friday July 12, 2019
Hello friends and family!
I’m one of GLA’s mentors, Veronica Martinez, and I’m from San Diego, CA. This is my 5th GLA program. I am super pumped to have these students on our program for the next two weeks. On behalf of our GLA team (Jen, Mark, Brett, and myself), welcome to the BLOG!!!
After a few trips to the airport, all the students arrived safely at our gorgeous homebase, Sunrock Guest House, for the first night. Even through the jet lag and tiredness, everyone’s smiling faces shined bright. After phone calls back home, exchanging dollars for Rand (*the local currency), and settling into their rooms, everyone relaxed and mingled.
Some played pool and ping pong, while some sat outside on the lawn and chatted away the afternoon. Everyone came together for dinner and yummy dessert. We had a quick welcome and staff intros, gave a brief overview of the schedule for the next 24 hours, and took a few pictures:)
Everyone is now eager and excited to head out tomorrow morning to Geluksburg to our beautiful homebase and get started! So many of the students have already begun talking about all the things they’re most looking forward to. We’re confident it’s going to be an unforgettable two weeks together in the Drakensburg mountains!
From all of our GLA staff team here in South Africa, thanks for trusting us with your loved ones. We expect that we will all learn so much together, have experiences we’ll remember for the rest of our lives, and learn a bit more about serving in rural South Africa. And we’re going to have a lot of fun doing it!!!
After today’s blog post, students will take over and will be sharing their own experiences firsthand. So we’ll leave you with our first ‘family’ photo which we took tonight at SunRock after our delicious dinner:) Included with our students are local staff members, as well as our GLA mentors and staff.
Sunday July 14, 2019
My name is Tori Gens from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and I am Anaya Robinson from Houston, Texas.
This is our first time on a GLA trip, and we are extremely excited to be here.
We are the leaders of the day, which means we will be sharing today’s blog post. This blog is where students will be able to share their thoughts, experiences, and highlights with everyone outside of Africa! So here it goes…
Over the first couple of days we have been able to become acquainted with the warm and welcoming staff of Mt. Thintwa. They do an excellent job of making us all feel safe, welcome, and comfortable. Because of them, we all have quickly become a big family.
We had a great conversation with Michael, the owner of the Social Development Academy at which we are attending. He told us that our job is only over once the world is a perfect place. At first, this statement seems like a daunting challenge, for how could a world ever be “perfect”. But upon deep reflection, it is this kind of statement that drives people to work towards unfathomable goals in order to make any kind of change. Success shouldn’t be measured by how much money someone has, but by the impact they have made. Even after being here for only a couple of days, we now understand that being able to impact one person is a success.
To wrap up this blog post, we would like to touch on the highlights of our day. Today, we were able to tour the community that we are staying in. We were able to see the school and the Sportstec Homeground. Being able to see our surroundings has given us a better understanding of the community we are staying in. Also, we were able to watch traditional Zulu dancing, and we learned some dance moves as well. This allowed us to break out of our comfort zones, learn to let loose around one another, and emerge ourselves into the Zulu culture. As Michael said, “Even the most shy community members will express themselves as soon as they hear music.”
Thanks for reading Today’s blog post! we are all very excited about the rest of our program and will keep sharing our experiences.
Tori Gens (17, Minneapolis) and Anaya Robinson (17, Houston)
Monday July 15, 2019
Hi my name is Caroline Baur! I am from Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Hi my name is Janvi and I’m from Chino hills, California.
Today was the first day we felt like we were integrated into the community! We got to hangout with kids our age. We combined sports and health. We had different activity stations and were paired with kids in the Geluksburg community. We talked about important issues in the community such as HIV/AIDS prevention, teenage pregnancy, goal setting, participation, and the importance of team work and healthy friendship. We incorporated and analyzed the similar skills that you need in sport as well as life. Another amazing factor of these activities was that we got to learn from the other students how different yet similar our worlds are.
We also got the opportunity learn Zulu in a language lesson from the local instructors. This was absolutely amazing and so interesting to learn, and it actually really helps in the service work we are doing. We learned basic words that we can say to the kids and adults in the surrounding area. Whenever we say hello (sawubona) in Zulu, all the local community members are so impressed and happy! 🙂
After dinner we participated in a debate/discussion about HIV AIDS. There were three groups as well as a mediator and judge group. It was amazing to hear the diverse world views and knowledge of important world issues that different people brought into the discussion. Today was so fun and got us excited for what’s to come!!
-Caroline and Janvi
Tuesday July 16, 2019
Hello all! We are Anoushka and Ellie and we want to tell you about our jam-packed day, filled with new experiences, people, and foods.
Our day began bright and early with a quick ride to Greenpoint, also called ngcongcosi, which is a high school with grades 8-12. There, we interacted with the students, first by giving them presentations on general health and safety. We then walked around the school and learned more about them and their school experience. The experience made us feel more optimistic about the future of our world. Another group went to the community center where they educated parents about health, nutrition, and basic first aid.
Next, we had a scrumptious meal at the home of one of our local instructors, Aubrey. The meal was cooked by his mom and served in a sacred building where we had the opportunity to learn more about Zulu traditions. We saw many of the animals on the property, and we learned about the tedious process of making bread in a wood burning oven. On our journey back home, we witnessed breathtaking views. The entire experience made us feel blessed to be here and fortunate for everything we have.
The last thing we did was play soccer with the local boys. I (anoushka) didn’t participate in the soccer game, but instead passed around the ball with two young boys. The first was in 5th grade, and a few minutes later, we were joined by another boy, in 3rd grade. We played for around an hour and I had so much fun! The experience made me feel excited to meet more young kids to play sports with. It reminded me (ellie) of playing sports with a whole group at summer camp. I felt so connected to everyone and so at home. I completely forgot that I was more than 2,000 miles from home.
Be on the lookout for more exciting adventures from GLA!
-by Anoushka and Ellie
Wednesday July 17, 2019
Hi this is Rian and Avery!
Today was yet another successful and fulfilling day filled with service activities, music festivities, and great food! Our amazing chef prepared a healthy breakfast to give us energy for the fun day ahead of us. After breakfast we began our day by splitting into three groups. Groups two and three went to visit the elementary school to speak with the parents about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Group one visited a high school to convey the same ideas to the students.
The experience was not only rewarding in the fact that the children and parents were beyond grateful and eager to be learning the critical steps to staying healthy, it also gave us the opportunity to truly understand how the community functions. We discussed how a balanced diet and daily exercise is crucial to living a healthy lifestyle as well as the necessary precautionary and vital steps to take when someone gets injured. We were able to measure the amount of knowledge the adults and children had about the subjects we were discussing through a series of personalized survey questions.
This information allowed us to reflect on our experience and truly understand the impact we have on the community. It came as a shock to many of us when we found out that most of the community doesn’t have access to common household remedies like antiseptic cream and therefore don’t understand its importance when dressing a wound. After our visits to the schools we visited a mobile clinic and spoke with the nurses what worked there.
The nurses explained how they have different locations that they travel to nearly everyday and will only go to each station once a month. Community members were lined up for a multitude of different reasons. Due to the clinic only coming once a month, this is the community’s only opportunity to see if they are healthy, check blood pressure, or be prescribed medication for an illness.
Most of the supplies are inside the van that functions as a makeshift clinic. However, these supplies are then transported into a room provided by each stop, and at this clinic we were in a room in an elementary school. The nurses showed us how they help the community through both improving health, but also attempting to educate each patient about dangerous and prevalent diseases and the precautionary steps that one can follow to avoid them.
Then nurses also explained how even though they attempt to educate the public about diseases like HIV/AIDS, and diabetes, many people will still ignore the risks factors associated with their decisions. This is one of the reasons why it is important that we are going more into depth about why and how one can stay healthy.
After our mid morning excursion, we went back to home base for a delicious lunch and some down time. For the next two hours, you then had a choice, to go on a hike to a waterfall or relax and rejuvenate at home base. If you chose to hike to the waterfall, you saw a beautiful lake and a small trickling waterfall with breathtaking landscape surrounding it. If you chose to stay at home base, you had the opportunity to shower and relax after a long week of being on your feet.
Next we all met together again around a fire to learn Afro-dance taught by Evans, a professional dance teacher. This dance combined styles of dance from all across Africa to create a fun, energetic environment that welcomed even the most uncoordinated “dancers”. After some practice, we were able to complete the entire dance with only a few slip ups. To refuel, we had dinner and dessert right after our dance lessons.
Once our food was digested, we were taught how to drum an African style bongo and create intricate and simple beats and rhythms. Our instructor informed us that different beats conveyed different meanings and served different purposes. For example one rhythm could be used for war and battle whereas another one could be used for wedding celebrations and other festivities.
This was an unforgettable experience and was the perfect ending to such an amazing day!
-by Rian and Avery
Friday July 19, 2019
Hello everyone! This is Katie Ledakis from Baltimore, Maryland and Zoé Moore from Shreveport, Louisiana! We were today’s leaders and therefore are taking over the blog! Our group has officially crossed the pivotal halfway mark. We have already learned so much and experienced new things, and can’t wait for next week!
This morning we all woke up nice and early to the yells of the roosters, goats, and dogs. After another yummy breakfast, we drove to the local waterfall where Matt (a community counselor), had a surprise activity for us. After our anticipation reached its peak, Matt revealed we would be competing in a community inspired Amazing Race course modeled after the television show. We were split into teams and we each had a community counselor for guidance. It started with throwing a pebble from the top of the waterfall and trying to hit a standing rock at the bottom. Then, we sprinted to the community field’s center, and inside there were three bowls filled with water and an apple in each of the bowls. The object was to eat the whole apple without touching the apple or using any hands!
After members of each team finished the challenge (shoutout to Zoé and Rian for getting soaking wet from dunking their faces in the bowls—but still succeeding), teams ran to the next challenge. Here they faced scoring three baskets at the home ground center. The team titled “the Skunks” was in the lead followed by “the Rockers” and our team, “the Goats”. As teams raced to the final challenge at home base, we cheered each other on with help of Sifiso. The last challenge was squeezing oranges that we picked and juiced from the trees on home base. The winners of the race were “the Skunks” and won major bragging rights for the day!
Around 10:00 am, we left to go see the mobile health clinic in a new location. We were warmly greeted by the same sister (nurse) as before and she allowed us to observe, record and reflect on the clinic. This location was bigger than the Geluksburg location and had several rooms. However, the clinics were very different compared to clinics in the States. Even though, they were extremely busy, the nurses did an amazing job regarding their circumstances. After asking our questions and observing the mobile clinic, with is ran entirely by nurses, we drove in town to the Bergville clinic.
The Bergville clinic was a great example for us to see the next step in rural South African health care. A nurse took us through the clinic briefly and explained each room while answering our questions. She explained the high risks of HIV, TB and other diseases to us. She also explained the treatment process for the diseases. After the short tour, we headed to a resort-like place where we ate lunch and relaxed. Most enjoyed pasta and/or pizza and finished with dessert. We also had an opportunity to buy crafts from local women that Charmaine drove to the resort. When we were all done buying jewelry from them, Charmaine thoughtfully drove them back to their homes!
Before going home for the rest of the day we stopped by a supermarket to get snacks and other various items. After a lot of free time filled with card games and phone calls, we ate a late dinner. Then we had a quality pow-wow in the common area and went to bed.
We had such a great day and can’t wait for the few days we have left!
— Katie & Zoe’
Saturday July 20, 2019
At 7:30 we enjoyed a delicious breakfast. We had some fresh baked bread, hard boiled eggs, a mix of traditional pap and fresh cocoa, and an assortment of meats. After breakfast we began our day by traveling to the Drakensberg Canopy Tour which is a zipline course. From hairnets to harnesses to helmets, we wore it all. We spent the next two hours flying through the trees on twelve different ziplines. The experience was not only a great way to appreciate nature but it allowed us to step outside of our comfort zones.
Next, we had sandwiches for lunch at the zipline course. It was made by local chefs and then we had an assortment of delicious desserts. Afterwards we headed to a shopping area where we had the opportunity to buy some beautiful artwork, jewelry, and souvenirs. We needed to fuel up before the Geluksburg talent show so we had a terrific dinner. The talent show consisted of singing, dancing and other fun acts. It was an opportunity to see the local community sing and dance with us. It was so much fun! We had a wonderful day!
-by Izzy and Laekhram
Monday July 22, 2019
Hi everyone! This is Isabella and Ashley bringing you the latest updates on our GLA adventure!
Today we had the opportunity to observe at a local public hospital. EMMAUS hospital is located about an hour away from our home base in Geluksburg. That brought up quite a few interesting revelations about the challenges of quickly getting to a hospital if needed.
Earlier in the week we learned about how public transportation is only available at certain times of the day, so if you were sick and needed help you could have to wait hours if not days to be seen by a doctor. The hospital actually looked quite similar to some in the U.S.; the main difference was the technology and amount of staff. We found that they were lacking a lot of the technology that we take for granted.
For example, they did not have an MRI machine, so if you needed a scan of your body or head you would have to travel to another hospital. After the insights we gained at the hospital visit, we went to a game reserve to try and look for native African animals. While there, we were able to see Giraffes, wildebeest, antelopes and zebras. Afterward, we had a discussion about the hospital and after dinner we had our mentor groups. So all in all an amazing day in South Africa!
-by Isabella and Ashley
Tuesday July 23, 2019
Hi!! I’m Annie Johnson from New Jersey and I’m Paige from California. It’s day 12 of the program and we did a big hike at the Drakensburg mountain range. Early in the morning, we piled in the vans and drove an hour to the hiking trail. There, we met our tour guide and he led us to the beginning of our hike. We saw many beautiful views of the mountains and a few animals on the way.
During our hike we took in the spectacular views of the the second tallest waterfall in the world but unfortunately it was dried up due to the winter season. Mid hike, we stopped at a nearby waterfall to take pictures and had a few snacks. After our great trek, we stopped at a local gift shop to pick up some souvenirs. We drove back to home base and had a wonderful lunch prepared for us. After we filled up on lunch, each mentor group gathered together to prepare for our big health day tomorrow! We made posters and brainstormed ideas regarding public health.
This was a great opportunity to learn and engage with the local community members. Tomorrow we will be at the local school (Greenpoint) and will be talking about health issues in order to find ways to improve the community. We had a jam packed day and are super excited to see what tomorrow entails. Thank you for reading about our day, we hope you enjoyed!
-by Annie and Paige
Photos from Day 11 and 12:
Hey everyone! This is Julia Reid, from Grand Rapids, MI, and O’Neal Fox, from San Diego, CA.
Today was our last full day in Geluksburg! We started off with a workshop where we taught 6th and 7th graders about 4 key topics relating to health that are part of their national curriculum. We then related these topics to a “Sports to Life principle”, courtesy of our SportsTech team.
In these workshops, we used games, activities, and handmade posters to teach each of the topics. For example, our topic was “building your team” in relationship to having a “positive attitude”. It was great to end the trip with such a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community, especially to kids relatively close to our own ages. We feel like we’ve made a lasting impact on people of all ages in Geluksburg, ranging from the children of the ECD center all the way to their grandparents who visited our workshops.
After our service, we were visited by the “Snakeman” of the region. He taught us about venom, its effects, and how to treat it, as well as types of snakes in the region. He related his discussion back to our Medicine and Public Health program by talking about the prevelance of snake bites and the lack of antivenom in hospitals and clinics surrounding the area where Geluksburg is located.
To end our trip, we had another fabulous dinner by our chef, Sandile, and celebrated all that we’ve accomplished by partying together in the lodge with music and s’mores. We will miss the wonderful meals, discussions, and times we’ve shared with everyone here, and are sad to be returning to our home country in a few short hours. We have hopes to continue the work that SportsTech is doing for the community, and are determined to spread awareness in our own home towns. We also have hopes of staying in contact with all of the wonderful people we have met on this trip.
Overall, this trip has been eye-opening for all of us. On behalf of all of the students, we’d like to thank our parents for giving us the chance to change the world. We’d also like to thank all of our leaders and mentors for guiding us along the way. The perspective we’ve gained on public health in rural regions has changed our views on medicine forever.
We’re thankful for 24 new friends, and a thousand new memories. Thanks for reading along with our trip, we hope you’ve had as much fun as we have 🙂
~ Julia Reid and O’Neal Fox