Service Learning Trip: Africa 2014 (Recap)

Sawubona (Hello in Zulu)! Over the course of two weeks we spent in KwaZulu Natal, we worked with villagers and children in a local community, went on several game drives to conduct animal research, and documented our projects through photos and words. This journey felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “How could people be so genuinely happy?” This was a question I often asked myself after a day spent in the community. When you think about poverty in Africa, you think of starvation, homelessness, and pain. However, I saw a world full of love, curiosity, and happiness. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, allow me to take you on a journey with us!

Teaching: Kindergarten, Elementary school and Elders

One of the biggest projects we tackled was teaching basic English at a local créche (kindergarten). The kids, from three to seven, traveled on foot by themselves to the kindergarten every day.

Spending time with the kids was probably my favorite part on this trip. When we worked in the créche, we did not see or hear any of the kids cry. Instead, they were all very energetic and keen to learn. Though we were there to teach, it often felt like we were receiving more than we were able to give. Aside from teaching the little kids, we also went to an elementary school where we gave short lessons about animals. We also participated in a weekly club to read with the gogos (grandparents in Zulu).

Community Conservation: Weeding

On Mandela Day, we participated in a couple of community conservation projects. My favorite was weeding an area as big as two basketball courts with the villagers and other volunteers. It was later turned into a vegetable garden.

Animal research: Game drive

When in Africa, you HAVE TO see the animals. Our lodge was located in a game reserve, and we could hear the lions’ roar every morning. The lodge also provided weekly research game drives during which we drove around in trucks to record information about the animals and later organized them so they could be used for research.

Night events: Documenting memories

After a long day of activities, we would jot down some of our thoughts and record our experience at our lodge before we called it a day. Now that I look back on this trip, I realized that this quiet time gave us the opportunity to self-reflect while things were still fresh in our minds.

Fundraising: Postcards and photo frames

Last but not least, after we came back from the trip, we still had the fire in our hearts to do more. The children at the kindergarten used a pit every day when they had to go to the bathroom. Thus, we decided to make good use of the photos we took on the trip. We framed a couple of them and printed the rest on postcards. Later the week, we presented our Africa trip to our families, friends and teachers, and held a silent auction immediately after. In the end, we fundraised a total of $15,000 NTD and the money was directly wired to the community so that they could use it for the construction of a flushing toilet.

Vivi Liu