LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

A six month leadership curriculum both in South Africa and Washington, DC,  supplemented by ongoing alumni opportunities.

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SERVICE

A core element of SAWIP, expressed through individual and team projects, both in South Africa and
Washington DC.

PROFESSIONAL EXPOSURE

Real world experience provided through six week work exposure in prestigious environments in Washington, DC.

 

 

alumni of the month

 

The South Africa-Washington International Program is helping to inspire, prepare and support South African youth to lead a sustainable democracy with a peaceful and prosperous future for all its citizens.

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"How was DC?" (Part 1)

by Lwamba Chisaka
Lwamba Chisaka
Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.
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on Monday, 05 August 2013
Experience 1 Comment

A few team members have already mentioned how difficult this question is to handle. All at once you’re called upon to detail 6 weeks in a few sentences. Sigh. It is impossible. Even if time wasn’t an issue there would still be the challenge of finding the correct adjectives because ‘Awesome!’ and ‘Amazing!’ really don’t do the experience justice. So, I’ve decided to tackle the question head on and attempt to detail (more like outline) the most outstanding highlights of the journey.

“If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.”

We saw this slightly kitsch phrase on our way out of OR Tambo airport, an advert for a big company. We chuckled and mocked the sheer cheesiness of it. Like all things cheesy though, it struck a nerve within most and perhaps we were too embarrassed to admit its truth. Firstly, the DC trip was not like other people’s trips to DC. It could not be replicated by one or even a few of us. One of the best things about the experience was the fact that it was shared. When happiness is divided it multiplies. Simply having friends around to share in the admiration of New York skyline or gawk at the White House made the experience all the better. Having people around to have post-discussion discussions was a good release and insight to not only how others view things but also how I receive things.

On another level, it was simply nice to bump into familiar faces on the Metro and in the street. DC isn’t the biggest city but it was made even less intimidating and homesickness was kept at bay because I was guaranteed to see a team mate (or WIP or NSL team member) on the way to work/a SAWIP event/intern happy hour.

Professional exposure

It really was a critical component to the whole experience. I was lucky to be placed at the US African Development Foundation. It was my first internship and first real exposure to a 9-5. Wow. My experience was a complete 180 degree shift from 1st year lectures which I often (not too often *cough cough*) took as optional. My daily routine consisted of waking at 7 to leave for the Metro by 8:30 to be at work by 9:30.

It wasn’t an internship in the sense of doing photocopying and coffee runs. I was assigned to do research on Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative ‘Washington Fellowship’ (http://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/washington-fellows). The ADF is one of the parties involved in the Fellowship, and my “job description” was to research how the Foundation could best set up inclusive selection criteria, mentorship program and a vibrant alumni network all the while with a focus on ADF’s strategic interest – economic empowerment of marginalized communities. It seems slightly inappropriate to use this phrase when describing work but I’m going to use it anyway – I had a WHALE of a time! Firstly, I found my “assignment” to be of great personal interest: I am a young African on a program much like what one would expect the Washington Fellowship to be like, and I’d hope in the future to be involved with the Washington Fellowship. Secondly, the staff at the ADF were extremely welcoming, friendly and helpful. From the friendly, elderly doorman who greeted me every-single-time I entered the building (even if it happened to be 5 times within the space of an hour) with a friendly, “Hi, how ya doin’ miss!?” or “Looks like its gonna rain laytuh!?” and my favourite of all time “Happy Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday!” etc. (as if everyday itself was worth celebrating in and of itself). My supervisor, Michele, went out of her way to ensure I understood my tasks and how to go about executing them. Also, it was arranged that on some days I would have one on one lunch with members of the staff. Each of them has their own interesting views and personal interest areas but all with the same bubbly, open demeanours. They were honest in discussing the work they do and where there is room for improvement. I appreciated this honesty greatly.

Before I arrived I had imagined all sorts of scenarios for how the world of work would be. In all variations and possible scenarios I’d imagined the world of work involved people at least 30 years my senior, who were set in their ways and unwilling to hear the opinion of an inexperienced 20-something (dark, I know, blame it on too much ‘The Devil Wears Prada’). The reality of my work exposure was that age was no big deal. Most of the PAs (Program Assistants) were in their 20s and 30s, and although they were younger I never got the sense of a great age-based hierarchy. It was rather a case of well experienced versus less experienced. This was one of the cool personal lessons I took from the exposure and the trip in general – age doesn’t automatically diminish the value of your contribution.  

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A Farewell to DC

by Cara Mazetti Claassen
Cara Mazetti Claassen
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on Wednesday, 31 July 2013
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On the 19th of July we bid DC farewell. We said our last speeches, goodbyes and thank you's to a wonderful group of people who had come to listen to us for one last time. Having been fortunate enough to deliver a speech that night and feeling overcome with gratitude this is some of what I shared.

 

" I wanted  to spend these few minutes saying thank you, thank you, over and over again to each person who has essentially made this kind of  experience possible since the inception of SAWIP in 2007. But time is jealous, so I hope this thank you to our management team, our host parents, our board members, our supervisors and the friends of SAWIP  really expresses our absolute gratitude to you

 

I believe that South Africans, just like anyone else,  each have many different stories. At any given time I believe that we identify strongly with any one set of our experiences and influences. Over the last six weeks my SAWIP experience had repeatedly lead me back to the influence of one 'story' in particular.

 

A  few years ago someone very special to me left this world. When she did, she left behind a book with one 'story' written inside. According to this story, I was born in Cape Town and at the time my parents lived in a small town just outside of the city called Darling where my mother founded and ran the local SPCA (an animal shelter) which had originally been an abattoir.

 

I celebrated my second birthday on a small fruit  farm even deeper into the countryside where I lived very happily in an old cottage with my mother who had founded another organization in that area. This time she gave her energy to raped and abused women and children from as far out in the countryside as she could reach. She once explained to me what motivated her work by saying the following :

 

If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.

 

This is a poem by Emily Dickenson, but it was retold and lived by mother so consistently that it provided me at a very young age with an understanding of the only kind of leadership that I would like to aspire to. Yet I dont think she would have ever called herself 'a leader'; her deeds are not recorded in any history books, nor is she revered in any museums and she she certainly never told any speeches on a platform like this. But, she experienced true empathy for the suffering of every being. She felt a responsibility towards humanity and she made this the focus of her life.

 

She left that book behind for me with many empty pages so that I could fill  them myself.  I have tried ever since to live a story that I would like to her to know. A very big part of that story, has been my SAWIP experience thus far and what I have learnt about my commitment to people.

 

So if I could, today I would have told her that the lessons that she started teaching me have been continued by the team of young people here with me tonight who have inspired me to demand more from myself and others for our country; who have taught me that you do not have to be the loudest person in the room for your voice to touch an entire congregation of people; who have reminded me of the value of asking questions, but also of listening (to everyone); who have taught me that you do not ever have to be confined to who other people understand you to be and who have inspired me to reach for a greater sense of selflessness, courage, humility, responsibility and kindness.

 

So what I hold true to at the closing of this SAWIP chapter, and what defines the work that I am so ready to do in South Africa, is my responsibility unto PEOPLE, individuals, before systems or institutions

 

Today South Africa matters to me because it is a collection of people, many of whom suffer for different reasons: conflict, inequality, resource scarcity,  poverty, violence, discrimination, poor healthcare, poor education, poor leadership and of whom more will suffer  if we do not do something about it, if I do not do something about it.

 

This team of young people matter, because we exist as a small representation of South Africans that are different, that are critical, that argue, but that essentially  now have a united value system to which we hold each other accountable and to which we hold the rest of the world accountable.  I grateful to SAWIP for all of this. I am exceptionally proud of my team-mates for everything that we are and so, it is to them who I owe my greatest thanks. "

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Now Is The Spring Of My Discontent

by Mario Fabian Meyer
Mario Fabian Meyer
Striving to, moment-by-moment and day-by-day, render service unto humanity: to a
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on Wednesday, 31 July 2013
Experience 2 Comments

For me, the most difficult aspect of being back in South Africa has been re-adjusting to familiar, everyday routines and experiences that, in comparison to the SAWIP routine in, and experience of, Washington, D.C., seem uninspiring and far-removed from my aspirations and passions. I feel less inspired by, and discontent with, the status-quo of my familiar, everyday life.


This is not the first time that I have had to re-adjust to being back in South Africa after having been abroad, but this time is different and more difficult. Being in Washington, D.C., on SAWIP, broadened my perspective with regards to life’s ‘reality’, possibilities, and opportunities. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, every day was an exciting adventure filled with numerous possibilities.


Two of the recurring themes of the SAWIP Washington, D.C. experience were: “Pursue what you are passionate about (and success will follow)” and “Do not limit yourself (aka, take risks)”. Being in Washington, D.C., on SAWIP, encouraged me to imagine without restrictions, whereas being back in my familiar, everyday life (as it currently is) stifles that creative energy (at least that is what it feels like at the moment).


Yet even in this SAWIP is contributing to my personal growth. This re-adjusting period is forcing me to think deeply about the familiar, everyday life that I want to create for myself. I recognise that most days of my life have been, and will be, the familiar, everyday ones (and not the Washington, D.C. ones, which are a break from the familiar and everyday).


My challenge is to ensure that my familiar, everyday life is something that inspires me. My challenge is to ensure that my familiar, everyday life encourages and promotes imagining without restrictions. My challenge is to ensure that in my familiar, everyday life, I pursue what I am passionate about. My challenge is to ensure that in my familiar, everyday life, I take risks.

 

As I incorporate this growth (i.e. what I have learnt, and what I am learning), in my life, I am confident that the spring of my discontent will soon become the winter of my discontent.


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Once Upon My Return

by Sibahle Magadla
Sibahle Magadla
I am young lady who loves God and loves people. I enjoy Economics and aim to use
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on Monday, 29 July 2013
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We landed in South Africa on the 21st of July. I was very excited to return home because as amazing as Washington DC is, the longer I was there, the more I fell in love with South Africa and her people.

 

The first thing I felt when we hit SA soil was the cold winter. I wanted to cry right there and then because I actually enjoyed the Washington DC heat!

Since returning to SA, I can’t help but feel different: I don’t think the same way; I don’t speak the same way anymore  – I  yearn to engage in deep meaningful conversations all the time; I am not afraid to engage with strangers either; my vocabulary seems to be complicated even when I am just chatting casually with friends.

I am a tad bit frustrated by the way things seem to move slower here. I feel like I should be doing more because I am not as busy as I was in DC. My day to day routine feels mundane and not as stimulating as my days in the USA. I crave the inspiration that the hustle and bustle of DC gave me. I miss having to do different things each day and being exposed to a vast array of information. I suppose I could say my DC experience was like a drug and now I am having a very difficult withdrawal period.

I am sad because when I tell people how DC was, a short conversation is just not enough to explain the change that the SAWIP DC component has effected upon me. Sometimes I don’t know what to say because there’s so much to share. Sometimes I know that what I am saying when I share my experience won’t be received by others exactly in the way that I would want them to understand it.

I am scared that I might forget some of the lessons I have learnt because the environment I am currently in does not allow me to practice them all. I wish I could place everything I learned in a capsule so I can be able to draw from that capsule every day and apply those lessons daily for the rest of my life.

I feel like my team and I are a bunch of aliens now who have come back with the mission to be the difference. We all understand each other because of this shared experience, but we are going to seem different because of what we’ve been through.

 

My friends ask me, “So do you feel ready to change the world now?” To be honest, I feel under so much pressure to do something big since I HAVE JUST EXPERIENCED SOMETHING BIG. I do believe that I shall achieve GREAT THINGS in due time, but I’ll definitely take it one day at a time.

 

I could honestly write a book about my DC experience. It was a whirlwind of challenges, wonder, learning, exposure, sometimes frustration and discomfort, deepening intelligence and character, etc. More than anything else, however, my DC experience made me believe that all things are possible. Though it may take time, sacrifice, pain, doubt, fear, and frustration, we CAN change the world!

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Speech at the Host Family Appreciation Dinner - 16 July '13

by Elroy Bell
Elroy Bell
I often fear my personality does not translate well into black and white. I've b
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on Friday, 26 July 2013
Experience 1 Comment

There is no one single South African Story. To imply that, undermines our diversity and the individual ways people interact with their circumstances and their communities. One of the reasons I say this is because for the longest time I didn’t think my story was relevant, standing next to other friends’ “South African Stories”

I am not white enough to have worked through the misplaced guilt some of my friends experienced in school, I am not black enough to have grown up with parents who carried Dom Passes and I definitely didn’t fetch water down the road and in true African style, carry the bucket on my head, can you imagine the long term damage to these curls?

In true South African fashion, the first place I went to in defining my story was race.

A while ago I began to feel a little overwhelmed with the idea of telling my story to a group of people. Not just because they would be strangers but rather because I didn’t know how I’d fit my story into a speech.

Firstly, you aren’t strangers. I look around here and see people who have opened your home and your family to me, we have shared a meal, a glass of wine or two or three, had wonderful conversations, laughed and even gone out dancing. You are friends and family now.

Secondly, famed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adiche reminded me of the dangers of a single story. The story I tell you here, will not be an all-encompassing tale of my life. At this point I have choices: I could tell you about my difficulties with identity, torn between one that defined my education and another that defined my family and the real story of how I became a good dancer – waltzing between these two lives that occupied this one body. I could talk to you about the difficulties in becoming comfortable with who I am and coming out as a gay man in South Africa, though that one may be a misrepresentation of the adversities people face in their journey to portray their authentic self.

Tonight, I will tell you about my house. If you’ve been to Cape Town, you probably didn’t visit my area, it’s not a tourist attraction and the only way I can explain where it is to Capetonians from the nicer side of the railway lines, is by telling them it’s on the way to Mzoli’s Tshisi nyama, their favourite cultural dining experience in the township

I grew up in Vanguard Estate in Athlone, on the cape flats

After being forcibly removed from District Six by the apartheid government, my mother’s family moved a couple of times until my grandfather was able to secure this house. District Six was an area just off Central Cape Town that was mixed area. After the group areas act, the government forcibly moved everyone to other areas and demolished their homes. If you go on the District Six tour in Cape Town, that church in the center of CPUT campus, St Marks, is where my grandmother was baptised and later married my grandfather. I think there’s an admin building now where their house used to be.

My parents moved in after getting married, renovating and expanding the house. It used to be painted bright blue, I think my dad was trying to emulate some misplaced identification with the colour scheme of the Bo Kaap, a historically Cape Malay area with characteristically brightly colored homes. Our house became a bright blue landmark people used when giving directions down the Klipfontein main road.

When I refused to sleep as a baby, my parents would take it in turns to walk me around the house and take me to the windows facing the street and the passing headlights of the cars would always calm me.

I'm supposed to be part of the post-conflict generation but as young as I was, looking out of those same windows I remember seeing the bright yellow police combat vehicles or caspers, driving in to disperse crowds in Gugulethu, I remember the protestors marching past my house: crowds and the songs. I remember when the smell of teargas wafted into our home from the commotion on the street. I understand the events intellectually in retrospect but in that moment as a young child, all I had was what it felt like.

I remember walking down to the Community Center on a really hot day with my family, being really confused as to why we weren’t using the car. I was 5 at the time. We stood in lines for a REALLY long time. Everywhere we went, people were happy. For the next few days, I couldn’t understand why my dad wouldn’t let me change the TV channel so I could watch cartoons. How could I understand that my entire household was glued to the TV waiting for the election results. It was 1994.

I find myself doing a lot more of the re-evaluating retrospective work on memories that I was  unable to contextualise at the time.  Through the processes of some of our SAWIP conversations, I have found new meanings. My SAWIP team has become a family. We have had many opportunities to share stories, experiences and discuss issues with which we have had particular experiences. In the same way that I was able to understand the events of my early childhood as I grew up, I've been able to contextualise world events and my interactions with people in a deeper more meaningful manner.

Quite a lot of that growth has happened as a result of some conversations with Patti and Jon. For one, they've developed my understanding of child rearing. If I end up being half as good as they are at raising Sam, I'll be happy. I can tell we will be friends for a long time to come. I walked into your home, a stranger with whom you'd exchanged a few emails, I leave knowing I will be sharing memories with you in the future. I am so excited to see Sam grow up. I have no doubt each of my team mates have also forged unique relationships with their host parents, don't be surprised to receive those "America-homesick" emails in a few weeks.

I am inspired by this team of South Africans every day, resolute in our common goal of nation building. Each of us passionate about different things but supporting eachother in anyway we can. A new generation of South Africans whose mandate it is to move our nation forward together to a society that will one day truly be unified in our diversity and not divided for equality.

South Africans who know that the country we will grow old in and that our children will grow up in will be of our design. A country of millions of stories, working together and helping eachother. The power is ours. Amandla! Ngawethu!

 

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Farewell Speech - Living and Changing

by Matthew Chennells
Matthew Chennells
I am a Masters student in Economics at the University of Cape Town, with a poten
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on Thursday, 25 July 2013
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Good evening. I know I speak on behalf of all my friends and teammates when I thank you for being here tonight to celebrate the culmination of our time with SAWIP in Washington. My name is Matthew Chennells and tomorrow we leave to fly back to South Africa.

 

Although my experience in DC has been like no other, the thought of being home fills me with a deep happiness.

 

I had a magical upbringing in which I got to develop my academics, sport, relationships, and sense of community at my own pace. My parents allowed me to push myself and were always the best example of who I wanted to be. I watched the way they interacted with people: they instilled in me the idea of mutual respect for others, that no matter what someone’s background there is always something they are able to teach you and that you should treat all persons with dignity. They ingrained in me concepts of fairness and reason. I have one younger brother and nothing specific was ever said to either of us by my parents, we were never sat down and taught lessons; they simply acted and we subconsciously absorbed it all.

 

When I was young I wanted to be a film director, a radio host, an author, a professional scuba-diver, a maker of fine wines. I studied a business degree, dived into numbers and strategy, and found that as I got older these dreams I had became devolved of childish abandon. And instead of changing my dreams I simply let them fall by the wayside. This is, I think, one of our biggest failings; not that we may give up on our dreams but that we forget to adapt them as we grow.

 

There is a Chinese proverb that states that you can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. It is only by pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones that we adapt our dreams to the realities that we face, that we turn fuzzy ideals into lives that provide us with happiness and meaning. And it is through exploring our world that we create experiences that shape us.

 

When I finished my undergraduate degree at university I embraced the opportunity to travel. I needed to find my identity on my continent as an African and I needed to give myself space to think about my future role in South Africa. I worked to earn money and then set off on a bicycle and cycled from London to Cape Town, moving through Europe, parts of the Middle East and Africa. I spent 17 months on the road, living out of bags, often relying on the kindness of strangers for directions, food and shelter. I learnt to be free, to be independent, to be patient with myself, and to take responsibility for every single action I took. I learned about the humbleness of people, about dedication and dealing with adversity, about friendship.

 

Two events in particular stand out for me as moments leading towards understanding what I now regard as important. The first was in Egypt in November of 2011, the same year that the country underwent revolution. We had visited Tahrir square, witnessed violent mobs and been harassed by gangs of young men. We were staying not far from where protests were underway. It was also Christmas time, a day at my home in South Africa that is filled with family, friends, calm and happiness. Alone in my room, in a foreign country undergoing violent transition and which doesn’t celebrate the holiday, I spoke to my parents, hearing all the time laughter in the background, practically able to smell the braai (the barbeque) through the phone. I felt alone and realized how often I took for granted certain people in my life.

 

My second story comes from Rwanda, later in the trip. I volunteered at a school for a month and even in such a short time I developed a strong attachment to some of the children there. But I had to leave; when our time there ended and we moved on, I simply packed up my things and cycled out of the gate. I said goodbye to the teachers, to the kids who came to wave goodbye not knowing that I was going for good. One of the older boys, about 13 years old, he knew. He helped push my bike to the gate, helped me open it. Stronger than me, he held back his tears as I cried. I remember cycling out of the city into the countryside with this boy’s strength infusing into me, with this realization that children are children no matter where they are in the world. There is a universal humanity that we all subscribe to in one way or another, and that even if we can create lasting bonds with a few individuals then we can make a difference.

 

These two lessons I have learnt: the need to actively think about who and what is important to me, and understanding the common ties that we have between us, is what drives me now.

 

I lived with a man who is not here today and who comes from a background completely different to myself. My favourite time of my day was the 20 min walk we used to take together to the metro station, time to just talk and learn to laugh at ourselves again. These two lessons I learnt he valued as well, but having arrived at from a completely different route. Our conversations were part of this SAWIP process that is teaching me that we are so much more than our race, our individual cultures, and our nationalities.

 

Benjamin Franklin said: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

 

SAWIP does this. It completely immerses us in experiences wider than those we would have got at home and does it with all of us here together. Whether or not we agree with each other, exploring together gives us a shared sense of purpose and engraves into us a sense of duty. I lived with a man from as different a background. Our challenge now is to take our dreams and the knowledge that we have acquired and making them useful in our communities.

 

We gather here and it’s the first time since I arrived home from travelling that I am able to indulge my rekindled desire to dream. We are different but we have created a family here; a cynical, intense, ambitious and difficult group of individuals. I feel at home with these people that I have known for only a few months and although we irritate each other sometimes and have our differences, I will miss them. I love being here, questioning everything and demanding answers, knowing that we do this because we have a shared dream for our future. And it is precisely because we ask tough questions with no easy answers that these dreams are beautiful. They are beautiful because they question what we currently think of as normal. And they are beautiful because we are in this together.


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Jet Lagging Behind

by Wiaan Visser
Wiaan Visser
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on Wednesday, 24 July 2013
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I was disorientated for about 4 days. I apparently kept waking up in the middle of the night asking of the rest of the group were following; but can you blame me? After six weeks with the group the herd mentality really starts to kick in. I keep wanting to take my passport with me wherever I go; it feels strange not having that little convenient flip phone with me all of the time. It took me about half a day to realise that I could now use my smartphone outside of Wi-Fi areas. I don’t know how I feel about not having the weekly program mapped out for me. These are all just the simple things. How long until you start questioning the larger things, the different ways of life, the conflicting institutional philosophies?

 

Everyone keeps asking how the trip was, as if there is a short answer which will live up to their expectations. There are a plethora of things which I could say at that moment, none of which will necessarily satisfy their curiosity or do justice to the grandeur of the experience. Sure the experience was fantastic, and yes I would do it again (who would not?); but there are elements of the experience which are nearly impossible to convey.

 

I saw things which I would never have had the opportunity to experience and I grew in ways which were not possible before. There is no one moment, or lesson which I learned from going to Washington. Rather it is the culmination of several moments, experiences, lessons, sights, smells, observations, conversations and thoughts which will fundamentally change who I will become one day. If you were to ask me in which way, I would be unable to tell you.

 

I do not know where my life was heading before SAWIP, or where I will one day go. I do however believe that this change which I have noticed will be for the better. I have a renewed sense of hope and patriotism for South Africa. This of course is not enough. The willingness to serve goes a long way but it is not complete without the ability to do so. As I understand SAWIP seeks to create real change agents who will one day influence the course of communities, peoples and even the nation. For this type of change we need the SAWIP Alumni to be equipped with the ability to do so, and this is precisely what the DC leg of the trip aims to achieve.

 

 

Even if I never used any of the umpteen business cards which I picked up in Washington, the networking, not the cards, was the valuable part. I will (probably) never work at C-SPAN, yet working 9 to 5 in a professional environment influenced what I think I would want to do one day. The US president Dwight Eisenhower, who was responsible for planning the invasion of France and Germany while still a general in the Second World War is famously quoted as saying: “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable”. While the trip to DC is in itself invaluable it is rather what you take from it that will one day make the difference.

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The Adventure Continues

by Mario Fabian Meyer
Mario Fabian Meyer
Striving to, moment-by-moment and day-by-day, render service unto humanity: to a
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on Wednesday, 24 July 2013
Reflection 1 Comment

Being back in South Africa feels rather surreal. I feel like we landed at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C just a few days ago. I feel like that magical Friday evening when we walked and ran in the rain en route to Times Square happened just yesterday. I can almost still feel the rain falling on me. It feels like not very long ago that I accidentally dropped my phone down a storm drain (Brennen was only kidding about me throwing my phone away, Sibahle Magadla). It was just a few days ago that I was navigating D.C.’s metro system. It was just a few days ago that I was interacting with, and learning from, my friends on the Washington Ireland Program (WIP) and New Story Leadership (NSL). It was just last week that I was hanging out with my SAWIP team-mates. Just last week I was interning at the World Bank. It was only 4 days ago that I watched the sunrise from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. How quickly time has passed!


While in the USA, I made a concerted effort to appreciate and be fully present in every moment. I lived each of the 39 days (12 June – 20 July) we spent in the USA with a sense of awe and disbelief that what was happening was actually happening. Every day was a thrilling adventure that held great promise, and I did my best to make the most of it. I would often say (to Lwamba Chisaka’s great annoyance): “Can we just take a moment to appreciate that we are in Washington, D.C.?” (Lwamba’s response was: “If you have to take a moment to appreciate the moment, then you are not living in the moment.”)


Now that we are back in South Africa, I am finding it difficult to #stayinthemoment the way I managed to do while in the USA. Now that I have returned to my ‘normal’, everyday life, I am finding it difficult to view each day as a thrilling adventure. Yet I recognise that if my D.C. experience is to have any relevance post-D.C., then I must apply the lessons that I learned, and adopt the attitude that I adopted, in D.C., in my ‘normal’, everyday life in South Africa. Just as I chose to appreciate and be fully present in every moment in D.C., so I must now choose to appreciate and be fully present in every moment in South Africa.


The truth is that every day in South Africa is a thrilling adventure that holds great promise. South Africa is an exciting place to be because its challenges provide numerous opportunities to make a difference and to make things better.

 

SAWIP does not end after the D.C. experience. The D.C. experience has better-equipped us to be and effect the change we wish to see in South Africa.


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Farewell Reception Speech - 19 July 2013

by Lwamba Chisaka
Lwamba Chisaka
Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.
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on Wednesday, 24 July 2013
Experience 1 Comment

The following is a speech that was given at the SAWIP 2013 Farewell Reception at Hogan Lovells on July 19 2013.

 

Two score years ago in this very city not far from where we’re gathered this evening, thousands gathered from every corner of this vast nation as a show of solidarity with the struggle for civil rights. Six weeks ago, in this very city I received an email. It was from the SAWIP management team. “We would like you to speak on your South African story, SAWIP journey and take away lessons from the DC experience.” Like many young South Africans my South African story is a sticky point – what is my South African story? Will it be what people want to hear? Should I add some spice and divulge intimate experiences for the sake of dramatic effect? Unlike Elroy, I didn’t study drama and for both your sake and mine I will refrain from doing my Halle Berry impersonation this evening.

My name is Lwamba Chisaka. I was born in Swaziland and raised in South Africa by Zambian parents. I could speak about how my life has been different and about how my story is not the typical South African story. But I would be lying. For the truth is there is no typical South African story. The experiences of a diverse nation such as ours cannot be summarized, typified or simplistically conveyed in a matter of minutes. My roommate for the summer was Rachel: a feisty, Irish, gal on the Washington Ireland Program (WIP). In one exchange she was able to summarize the conflict in Ireland. On numerous occasions throughout our stay at the Schwartz’s she would turn to me and say, “I still don’t know what the South African conflict is!” Other members of the WIP class would say, “I still don’t know what the South African accent is!” The truth is, at least my truth is the South African identity is our conflict.

“It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” I had always thought this but it’s hard to keep the faith that you are not defined by irrelevant characteristics when you reside in small college campuses and small towns such as the ones I was raised in, and even more so the one I attend college in today. In the United States people ask what my name is. Then, they ask where I am from. And then, depending on who they are they ask either what my interest area is or what my pet giraffe looks like. The point is they don’t ask me, like most people in South Africa do, where I’m really from. My identity as a South African is not questioned. Neither is my identity tied to my nationality at all. In DC it has been incredibly refreshing to witness for the first time what I always knew in my heart to be true: it is possible to make connections with people based only on your shared interests. I have appreciated conversations and had more in common with people the world might superficially consider my opposite.

The experience of South Africa and the United States are much the same and during my time here I have found myself constantly comparing the two. On the issue of national identity I think the 20-something South Africa could take some notes from old Uncle Sam. Two moments that stand out for me during my summer in DC are the singing of 'The Star Spangled Banner’ at the Washington Nationals baseball game and the 4th July Fireworks. On both occasions I found myself inspired and even a little jealous of the unity of this nation. I was taken aback by how power a national identity can be. Powerful enough to make me (an emotional island as was recently remarked by a team mate) get butterflies in my stomach, goose bumps on my arms and tears in my eyes. Should South Africa work toward this? How does South Africa work toward this? These are questions I will take back with me. I believe that in many ways it is out of this shared identity that a culture of service and leadership flows, a culture exemplified by the SAWIP organization. I have a dream that our nation will rise up as well, and live out the true meaning of its creed – united in diversity.

It would be impossible for me to sit down without making explicit reference to the events that happened 50 years ago. As far as speech titles go, ‘I have A Dream’ is rather misleading. It makes it easy to remember the speech as a passive description of hopes and dreams for a country when in fact it was a call to action, a reminder of the gap between reality and ideals. On the fierce urgency of now Dr King said, “this is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” I say this to you my team mates and friends, to you who feel as though your time and the baton have passed, to you who are satisfied you are doing enough and those of you who like me, are not satisfied you are doing enough: “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

If we are to continue the legacy of our founding father Nelson Mandela, we have to recognize the responsibility we have to build our nation. 1994 was not the end, it was the beginning. Institutionalized discrimination is not over as long as children attend mud schools, and the illiterate don’t have access to courts and young people are not given the opportunity to get or create employment, and it is certainly not over as long as achieving the good life comes down to luck, location or money. Institutionalized discrimination is alive and well and it is for us to dream big as Martin Luther King Jr. Did. It is for us to make the correct and tough decisions as Lincoln did. It is for us to never lose faith in the political system upon which our democracy is built as President Obama has. “It would be fatal,” Mr King said, “for our nation to overlook the urgency of now.”

SAWIP has created within me a heightened sense of urgency to pursue solutions our country and continent need so badly. I am deeply grateful to SAWIP for the opportunity it has afforded me to think about and explore these issues. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I Have a Dream - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smEqnnklfYs

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There is no place I `d rather call home than Africa

by Cecil Lwana
Cecil Lwana
African health care enthusiast, Radical thinker.
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on Monday, 22 July 2013
Experience 4 Comments

In all the places of the world.

Washington and it's beauty

New York and it's splendour.

In all the kingdoms of the world,

there is no place I would rather call home than Africa.

 

 

From the hills of Eastern South Africa,

through the miellie farms of Bloemfontien

to  Stellenbosch and its vineyards.

There is no place I would rather call home.

 

 

From Dakar to Cape Town

I am moved by your beauty.

My ink runs dry describing your beauty.

there is no place I would rather call home.

 

 

 

Over Botswana and its diamonds

Johannesburg and its gold,

I am aware you are too rich to be poor,

you have enough for our needs not our greed.

 

 

 

My beloved Africa,

your wealth is not underground but on top of it.

Its not your gold,

its not your diamonds

its your children.

 

 

 

Glorious Rainbow Nation

come paint our world colorful.

Let the ground that nurtured me smile when I touch it.


In all the great Nations of the world

there is no place I `d rather call home than AFRICA.

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Congressional Forum Speech

by Phillip van der Merwe
Phillip van der Merwe
Phillip is a fifth year student at the University of Stellenbosch where he obtai
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on Monday, 22 July 2013
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This is a copy of the speech that I delivered at the Donald M Payne Congressional Forum.

 

Goeie naand dames en here. (Afrkaans for Good evening ladies and gentlemen)


My name is Phillip van der Merwe and I am an African. I stand here before you tonight truly humbled and truly excited. Humbled because this opportunity is something I never would have dreamed about and excited because it allows me to dream even bigger.


I grew up in the leafy suburbs of our capital city, Pretoria. A place where people walk their Labradors on broad sidewalks of neatly cut grass and children play cricket in their backyards and scream in joy as they jump into swimming pools in the summer. My life has been sheltered and privileged and I could easily not have had any reason to pursue a change of the status quo.

But I do.

A small black Ndebele woman with a kind face and a big heart entered our house in 1990, the year in which I was born. Her name was Lena Msiza. Lena bathed me, fed me, walked me to school and became my second mother. She became part of my family and she taught me about love and kindness and respect. She came from a Township called Mamelodi just north of Pretoria and she is the reason that I applied for the South African Washington International Programme (SAWIP).


This is because every Monday morning when she arrived at my house after an hour-long commute in a cramped minibus taxi, I started to be aware that over the walls and electric fences that protect the palaces of the suburbs there are sprawling townships where indigent South Africans have little defense against disease, crime and weather. When I was just a little boy and her son came over to play, I began to understand that there were children in many parts of South Africa that don’t have the opportunity to go to school. When she couldn’t help me with my reading homework I was reminded of the good people of my country that are illiterate because of apartheid policies. She made the realities of South Africa real for me and she made me want to change things.


Because, as Nelson Mandela rightly described, while the transition to democracy was a mammoth stride towards freedom in South Africa, it didn’t remove the inequalities that were created by apartheid. As he said:


“A simple vote, without food, shelter and health care is… to create an appearance of equality and justice, while by implication socio-economic inequality is entrenched. We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom. We must provide for all the fundamental rights and freedoms associated with a democratic society.”


Changing things to do this, however, is easier said than done, and when you are constantly bombarded by news of poverty and governmental mismanagement it’s easy to get disillusioned with your ability to make a difference. It makes you want to stay on the beaten track, get a mundane job and hold on to the little bit of individual prosperity that you can manage for fear of losing your position in the middle class. It makes you want to give up.


But that is not the African way. And that’s what Lena taught me. She taught me that it’s not only the political giants and captains of industry that need to work to make communities better but also ordinary people across South Africa.


So when I applied for SAWIP I knew I wanted to help families like Lena’s, where a dozen children and young adults were dependent on financial support from one 60 year-old domestic worker. I knew I wanted to live in a South Africa where freedom came with bread. I knew I wanted to live in a South Africa where everyone could aspire to happiness – where my house in the suburbs wasn’t just a place where your mom cooks and cleans but a place where you too could live and raise a family.


A funny thing happens when you put 15 passionate young South Africans on a plane and send them to a city halfway across the world for 6 weeks and have them meet with extraordinary people. As my fellow team members can attest to, you find yourself talking less about the latest pop culture and more about the issues that affect your country. You start thinking less about the problems in South Africa and more about the solutions. You stop giving up and you start dreaming bigger. You realise that you possess something that could potentially change the world.


And that something could be something as simple as being young. Because when you realise that you are young and that you don’t have to be fast-tracked to be the next senior partner at a large law firm, you know that you can fall and get up again. When you realise that you’re allowed to fail you stop looking for risks and start looking for opportunities.


I believe that all of us that are part of the SAWIP team of 2013 will contribute to a South Africa where freedom comes not just with bread but also with access to quality education and dignified health care. And as the part of our journey in the land of opportunity comes to an end, I believe that we can start another journey in our own land of opportunity.


Because in the words of former president Thabo Mbeki, today is a good day to be an African.

 

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Congressional Forum Speech

by Anna-Marie Müller
Anna-Marie Müller
I am Anna-Marie. I am currently doing a Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Deve
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on Sunday, 21 July 2013
Experience 2 Comments
This is the speech I delivered at the SAWIP congressional forum on Wednesday, July 17th 2013.

Good evening distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen


I am Anna-Marie Müller and I am an African. I care deeply about my continent and its people. I am honoured to share tonight some of my thoughts about what making a difference could mean for me.


I grew up in Stellenbosch, a town known for its wine, mountains and university. Some of my childhood was spent in other university towns in Europe, as my father is an academic and our family accompanied him on fellowships and sabbaticals. In our home, my brother and I were brought up to nurture our curiosity. I love exploring the world – through books, travelling, dreaming. I look for stories and ideas wherever I go, and SAWIP has really added new dimensions to my life.


Since the selection camp in April, I have carried this green journal with me. Paging through it in preparation for this speech, I remember the range of important debates we have had as a team. The one thing that stands out to me about the SAWIP experience regarding leadership is the importance of creating conditions for others to self-empower. So I ask myself how I can be an enabler wherever I go.


I am a graduate student in Sustainable Development at Stellenbosch University. I like systemic thinking, holistic approaches to problems and finding pragmatic solutions. This fits in well with my field of study. I have a keen interest in food security and nutrition, as well as in resource economics and ecosystem services. Finding a way to make sense of these subjects, throwing in gender equality and access to education just to be sure there is enough complexity, has been my challenge so far.


To start answering my questions of “how”, I have identified a specific topic that I feel strongly about. It relates to how I see Africa positioning itself in the future. That topic is stunting. To explain it briefly, the 1000 days from the start of a mother’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday is the window of opportunity for growth and development. Physiological and cognitive stunting occurring in this period due to undernutrition has life-long consequences for an individual’s life. A child whose brain is underdeveloped can never compensate for that loss. It means he or she will perform poorly in school, earn less as an adult and definitely contribute less to his or her country’s economy. I feel strongly that we cannot expect long-term, sustainable growth in Africa when children experience this barrier. Hunger is a solvable issue. With current UNICEF data indicating 40% of Africa’s children stunted, we must commit to reducing the prevalence of stunting as a promise to future generations that we are concerned about the world we leave behind one day.


Tomorrow we celebrate the 95th birthday of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Me being here today is part of his legacy. He dedicated his life to more than the freedom of the millions of people who were excluded through legislation and at the hand of the police. He also freed me, the young, white Afrikaans-speaking South African. I believe that allowed me to form part of a culture that transcends the colour of our skin and tongue we speak to our grandmothers. That culture is marked by the intent to make a difference, to continue fighting for freedom, to have compassion and be open to hear one another’s stories. In the words of Madiba: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. To me, Mr. Mandela says democracy is having more than a good constitution. He is challenging me to contribute to freedom on a daily basis. I don’t believe the hungry or stunted are free. This challenge is my space to enable. It is how I choose to honour my own freedom.


 

Thank you.

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My speech at the Donald M. Payne Congressional Forum

by Olwethu Ngwanya
Olwethu Ngwanya
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on Friday, 19 July 2013
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Each one of us is a book of many stories with many chapters. Every chapter has characters, twists, turns and influences. While growing up I have been looking, listening, connecting and learning from other people’s stories so that in future I can be able to re-tell my own story.


Ladies and gentlemen my name is Olwethu Ngwanya. I am currently studying for a BSc in Chemical Sciences at the University of Western Cape.


Originally I come from KwaZulu-Natal on the East coast of South Africa, a rural area called Matatiele which is just near the border of Lesotho. I was raised by both parents and three siblings. When I was 5 years old I moved to Cape Town where I’ve grown up. I moved to Cape Town because my parents wanted better education for us. Luckily, my father was working as a security guard at a welding company in Cape Town. At least my family could afford its minimum requirements such as clothing and food. My parents do not have formal educations, but they tried by all means for us not to go the same way they took.  In rural areas where I was born when woman go to fetch water in the river, which is a distance of about 3 miles, they are bragging to one another about the success of their children, my mother wanted to have a say too. My father once said to me: “my son, you know if you would become a doctor, when I go to any function in this village, I will get the most comfortable chair because my ‘son’ is a doctor.”


It was every child’s dream to go and study in Cape Town. We only heard good things about Cape Town, but being part of that community for years showed me the other side. This is a city of living by choices, everything is available. Good and bad things. On daily basis in townships you see young and talented boys on streets corners where crime is the subject, drug an object. There is violence and alcohol is abused in households from sunrise to sunset. And my question was, is this part of the education that we rural children yearn for? Or education was only dealt with within the school premises only?  I have tried and tasted some of these things just a little, I knew I only have one life and I had to make the best out of it.


From a young age I realized that society can be a danger with its influences. I could not let myself be the victim of my society; I chose to be the victor. I associated myself with people who have dreams of creating a better beloved community. I engaged with leadership programs and community projects which seek to eliminate any sort of negativity but promote hope, unity and integrity within our societies. I always knew that I had the insights and potential that our community needed. I just needed someone to guide and help me realize my potential.


Through all the challenges that my community faced, I did not and will not give up on it. While In University I went back to township schools and served as a peer educator. We designed and implemented drug awareness programs. I chose to be a leader that sees an opportunity through every difficulty, and the opportunity was to make a positive change through my education.


Ladies and gentlemen at the beginning of this year I was selected for the South Africa-Washington International Program which has given me the platform I always wanted in life. I applied to the program to advance my leadership skills and passion for public service. As I have said that I am studying Chemical science, I never gave much attention in some of the subjects outside my field. But today through SAWIP I know how South Africa is related to other countries, economically and socially. During my exposure here in DC I have come to understand what it means to be an active citizen, and that is to work hard for others without always waiting for a reward. Through the leadership training and discussions we had within the SAWIP family, my vision of a better society has extended ‘to carry into the world a vision of new Africa’. I am happy to dream with these young souls, dreams of our Africa, less hungry, less corrupt but rather a socio-economically, vibrant, viable, and successful Africa.


To my SAWIP team, the sons and daughters of the African soil, Africa is crying for our help. It is in our hands to rescue ‘her’; we need to carry her on our broad shoulders. Martin Luther King Jr once spoke about the Promised Land, I can also see that we are about to reach our promised land be ready for it.


O.Ngwanya

 

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Its rather... different here

by Zizipho Pae
Zizipho Pae
Love GOD, Love People, Be a Servant, Lead with Heart. Transform Society
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on Thursday, 18 July 2013
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I have to admit, first and foremost that it was a shock, ‘a cultural shock’ as most people would like to call it. It’s difficult for me to even narrow it down and talk about one or two things that were ‘different’ and that I learnt in my time here in DC because there is just so much. I have chosen a few which I think are the most important ones: the cost of living and the value of the rand, that America really is the world’s biggest consumer, the priorities of the justice system in a first world country and last but not least, the culture of networking.

I’ve always know that $1 was equivalent to anything fluctuating between R8 and R10. I constantly heard the words ‘the rand is falling against the Dollar’. But until I came to DC, I did not know what those words actually meant in practice. I got my very first reality check when I bought a McDonalds meal which cost me $8:15 for the burger, medium fries and a medium soda. Because I didn’t know what was cheap and what was expensive, all I could really do was convert to Rands to the relative price. I then found out that I had paid a little over R80 on a regular McDonalds meal, and yet back home I would not have exceeded R50 for a full meal. This was the beginning of many instances where I was exposed to how expensive life is here in DC and also how little the rand is worth in America. There was a time when I finished all my money in New York and so when we got back to DC, I didn’t have any American money. I then used my South African bank card to swipe for $10 worth of metro credit and I spent R100. This just broke my heart.

The portion of almost everything in America has been shocking. People live in big houses, they drive big cars and the size of their meals is just out of this world. It was shocking for a young person who grew up in South Africa. In high school we used to learn about how America had the biggest carbon foot print in the world and that they are just the greatest consumers on the face of this planet, this summer spent in DC, I saw all of those theories in practice.

I have come to notice that the justice system is very tight here in DC and that a simple act of ‘Jay-walking’ is seen as a punishable by fine act and is utterly and completely against the law. I have also come to know that a police officer will actually stop you for the j-walking. This was rather bizarre to me, and to this moment, still is. The reason I found it rather ‘interesting’ is that back home, police officers have so much bigger problems to deal with that they barely ever have time to deal with petty crimes. It could be that the crime rate in America is much much lower than that of South Africa or it could be that America is much more resourced with police personnel that they can afford to work on people who j-walk.

The culture of networking in DC has been amazing. People say often its not what you know or how much you know, its really about ‘who you know’. And this is a culture that has been developed quite a lot in the business and political city. The first way to get your foot in the door is to know someone, and if you can, know them well.

 

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On a Trajectory Headed Towards Infinity

by Sibahle Magadla
Sibahle Magadla
I am young lady who loves God and loves people. I enjoy Economics and aim to use
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on Thursday, 18 July 2013
Experience 2 Comments

I had the honor and privilege of speaking at the Donald M. Payne Congressional forum on the 17th of July 2013. This is the script of my speech.

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Ward 7, District of Columbia - A Lesson in Social Studies

by Cara Mazetti Claassen
Cara Mazetti Claassen
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on Tuesday, 16 July 2013
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For the past few weeks, I have been doing my work exposure through the Higher Achievement Program at the Kerry Miller Middle School in Ward 7 which is a neighborhood in the District of Columbia.

 

 

According to a set of data by NeighboorhoudInfo DC, (which is an organization in DC that provides local data and analysis in an attempt to "democratize information" so that it can be used as a tool in civic engagement)  in 2010 the total population of Ward 7 was 71 748 people, a number that only started growing in 2000. Before 2000, population size was decreasing at an average of 1.1% per year. 

 

 

In 2010, 97% of this population was comprised of "black non-Hispanic" residents - the highest percentage amongst wards in the District. Following this, Hispanic residents comprised 2.7% of the population, "white non-Hispanic" residents comprised 1.5% and Asian residents comprised 0.3%.

 

 

Ward 7 is known for having the highest rates of teen pregnancy unemployment, persons living below the poverty level, and households headed by single women in the District of Columbia. According to the NeighborhoodInfo, DC data, in 2010 24% of the population were children, although it is not stated what age bracket makes up this group. From 2000 to 2010, the number of children in the ward is said to have decreased by -7.1%. Yet the percentage of births to teen mothers  has remained almost unchanged over the last 30 years. In 2007, the percentage (19%) was the highest amongst the DC wards.  In 2009 households (with children) headed by women comprised  76% of the population. Again, the highest amongst the DC wards. School dropouts and insufficient educational achievement, single parenthood, unemployment at three times the regional rate due largely  to low skills levels, and crime including violent crime such incarceration and murder is said to impact one third of all residents.

 

 

Of the new HIV infections among adults and adolescents in DC, 12.2% occurred among individuals living in Ward 7 and of the new AIDS infections, 15.4% of them occurred in Ward 7. The greatest proportion of newly reported HIV/AIDS cases in the ward were attributed to heterosexual contact at 35%, injection drug use (IDU) at 22% and men who have sex with men (MSM) at 20%.

 

 

Yet, when you are inside Kelly Miller it is easy to almost forget all of this. The school exists as a kind of oasis fully clad with a new gym, auditorium, swimming pool, elevators, Mac desktops and Smartboards in every classroom. The only suggestions of the harsh world outside are strict security routines, the metal detectors and the squad of security personnel posted at every entrance to the building. And last, but not least - the learners. Whilst they each sport a different set of shiny sneakers, break dance and shoot hoops like its in their blood (which it probably is), what they say in class reveals a deeper truth of what it means to be African American for many in DC that belies our Hollywood-fed understanding.

 

 

These are some of the things I've overheard in the Social Studies summer school class over the last two days:

 

 

" Who pays child support for you" - said by 5th grader while making a poster in group work.

 

"If I was a man, I would have a better chance of becoming the president." - said by an 8th grader. Afterwards the teacher asked what was stopping her from becoming the president one day. She answered with the following "Because I am black - thats one thing  and because I'm female  - thats another thing".

 

" I dont' think it will take that long to have a woman president. She might even be a black woman. How about that?" - said by another 8th grader girl in response to her peer.

 

" When my mom applies for a job she always gets the job,  but my dad never gets them and he has a PhD. " - said by an 8th grader boy in explaining why it is better to be an African American woman than man in DC.

 

"If I was European American I would be said because I couldn't tell any of the kids in this neighborhood, the ghetto. But I would be happy because I would get better jobs." - said by an 8th grader boy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beyond the painting...

by Timothy Taylor
Timothy Taylor
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on Monday, 15 July 2013
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What is truth? Is truth subjective? Is it absolute? If truth is deemed dependent upon the person or culture holding the belief, anything can become "true," which is absurd.


All these questions were derived from the tour of the National Art Gallery we had on the weekend. A man by the name of Steven took us on a personal tour of American Art. Not knowing much about art myself, I had assumed that at most I would simply marvel at the brilliance of the artist and think nothing more of it. How wrong I was indeed.

 


Steven was a charismatic and exciting tour guide. Equipped with a cardboard cutout of a microphone and a laser pointer, he was able to allow us to get involved at each and every stop as together we tried to uncover the mysteries that lay beneath the paintings.Each collection of paintings, came with a slightly deeper and multi-layered meaning beyond what the human eye could see.
We came to learn of the various presidents that were all painted by Gilbert Stuart and how his perception of them influenced the final product. Each painting told a story and in order to reveal the artist's true meaning, we had to look at the more subtle parts of the painting that usually wouldn't be considered to be relevant. Everything from the way in which the brush strokes were made, to the lighting in the backdrop seemed to be an indication of something deeper beyond the painting.


After thinking deeply about these multi-layered stories, it dawned on me that this only represents the artists impression of society at that time. It is a subjective narrative and only gives the viewer one side of the coin. Many years down the line, it is a collection of subjective letters,  paintings and books that we have to rely on to learn about the history of a certain era.


Our friends from the New Story Leadership said that they face a similar problem. There is a Palestine version of what happened in their Country and there is an Israel version which tend to contradict each other. As neutral bystanders it makes our lives that much harder to decipher what is truth and what is fiction.



I have come to realize that the only truth that exists lies with the people who lived in those times and experienced it themselves. To every other human being, it is open to interpretation. I have realized that much like the paintings we saw, each and every person that we see everyday has a story beyond what we see visually.
My SAWIP team is another great example of a bunch of people who have tremendous life stories and multi-layered lives but you would never get to know the truth unless you took the time to talk to them and uncover those layers one by one.


As Steven kept on saying, life is complicated, people are complicated and behind every story, there are hundreds more that remain untold.

Tags: deeper, surface, truth
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The Rush for Change

by Matthew Chennells
Matthew Chennells
I am a Masters student in Economics at the University of Cape Town, with a poten
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on Monday, 15 July 2013
Experience 2 Comments

 

One of the wonderful things about the SAWIP program is that it drives into you a sense of urgency to do something worthwhile for whatever community it is that you represent, to make productive use of the present and to think deeply about how to make the best use in the future of acquired knowledge and available time. Small businesses, rapid growth, technological change, the impact of social media, massive poverty upliftment; these grand designs crash around continuously in our heads.


It’s like looking at a night sky filled with stars: we see a bright light, develop these fantastic ideas and then peer hard at them, fixating on them. The harder we stare at them the quicker they dull and dim until suddenly, out of the corner of our eyes flashes another point of brilliance, another sparkling thought, and we switch across. The process continues, sometimes haphazardly, sometimes frustratingly; the comfort that we take is that there are many options to choose from and that we are not narrowed down to one unless we force ourselves to. We can just as easily sit back and revel in the glory of the night sky as fascinate ourselves with the distance and brilliance of specific balls of fire.


However, we are in a rush to do both. What we forget in this process of learning is that change takes time. It can happen suddenly, but more often than not events build on years of simmering thinking; that for every revolutionary leader that rose to power there were a whole number who fell in trying to do so before them. The abolition of slavery, the destruction of royal dynasties, the fight for colonial independence, rights for same sex marriage; all of these were long processes which culminated in the events we know and remember today; wars won, power taken, laws passed.


We are driven by an individualised society where we need to be the youngest in our field, millionaires before we are thirty. Drive, ambition and ego can be good drivers of change but they are also impatient drivers. In their rush to topple governments they overlook the need to build lasting institutions, both formal and informal. In Egypt now, after the revolution, haste drove elections and the consequences are being dealt with in the deposition of a democratically-elected leader, a leader who moved into institutions that have existed for decades, defined by religion, power and identity. The problem in promoting rapid change is that we don’t change the institutions and fail to see why new leaders act in similar ways to those of old.


The same is true in South Africa: we had change, rapid change in its historical context even given that we took time to try and incorporate every concern. For a number of reasons, though, the institutions in place remained largely untouched. We moved from RDP to GEAR almost instantaneously. Twenty years down the line, our police force is archaic, the education system is as divided as it was before, the transfer of business and land ownership has been wholly inadequate, access to justice is rarely available, and displaced communities find themselves unmoved. We did not smash down institutions to rebuild them, as some suggested would be the necessary source of change for equality. For a number of reasons, we chose to embrace them and transform them from the inside.


This approach works if two things are in place: one, the running of these institutions must be open to questions and be willing to adapt; and two, that we continue to deal with issues of the past. In South Africa, neither of these holds true.


Instead, our institutions operate as before in silos of power. Ministries operate vertically, the police force is structured as it was under apartheid, as is the education system in effect. Access to justice is backed by little political will and development issues in informal settlements remain unresolved. The power of corporates is as strong and tightly controlled as before. In our rush to take over these institutions and gain power we did not adequately assess how they were structured and whether these structures were what we desired.


And above all we have no more processes for healing. For all the good that it did, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was inadequate in its reach and impact; too few were heard and too little was told. There is a layer of hurt and tension that exists in our society that we have not provided space to deal with. Leadership programs for the youth are important, but there is no outlet for those older people who actively suffered. It’s almost as if we are waiting for them to depart this earth, hoping that they will suffer in silence until they do. The irony is that dealing with issues from the past may actually accelerate our integration as a society compared to where it is now.


That is not to say that there hasn’t been progress nor that new systems in place - such as the social grant system - are not playing an important role in alleviating poverty. If we had time, decades, to let the system slowly change then this might not be as important. But we do not. Every year hundreds of thousands of children drop out of school and those that pass matric have a qualification that is rapidly decreasing in worth. Jobs are even more scarce and, even more importantly, not tailored to the type of economy that might most benefit South Africans. Urban informal settlements are growing and sanitation and access to food and water is increasingly scarce. We do not have time to let the situation slowly evolve.


There is a paradox, then: our rush to create new rules of the game after apartheid meant that we have left no space to question or ask for more change and which has resulted in a situation which now requires rapid change. We can be practical in addressing this: we can establish space to talk about conflict from the past; we can look at property ownership to make it more fair, acknowledging that some people’s comforts will be reduced in order to help many more; we can inform ourselves about who is representing us politically and improve the quality of our vote, punishing those who do not perform; we can challenge the dominance of unions or interests that disproportionately protect small groups; we can use technology to leapfrog development issues and provide access to quality education, healthcare and the legal system; we can foster and correctly regulate private business. Above all we can challenge our own thinking and realise that if we want to coexist in South Africa in the future then we must be willing to get up in front of our friends and take a stand. We must be willing to take responsibility for the institutions that we have created and in doing so discover how we can improve them. We must decide for ourselves what level of suffering we are willing to tolerate and if the answer is zero then work towards that.


Institutions are created by people and so they act like people. As with our own relationships amongst each other, trust, commitment to certain principles and the ability to act all come with time and an input of energy. There is no reason to think our institutions in South Africa operate any differently.


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Conflict and Healing in South Africa

by Cara Mazetti Claassen
Cara Mazetti Claassen
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on Thursday, 11 July 2013
Reflection 1 Comment

Conflict and Healing in South Africa

 

I believe that I have come to learn the most, not from the experts around me, but from the person sitting next to me on the plane, the train, the bus, the taxi or the trolley; the person arguing with me on a sidewalk; the person debating with me in a coffee shop; the person challenging me from a across the table; the person who I argue with while we march around DC in high heels just about losing breath and balance; the person in a conversation huddle with me at a dinner party  - the numerous young people who challenge, frustrate, inspire and blow me away on a daily basis  and who I call my team. It is these small conversations and moments of banter that we have in passing, that really make me think and question. Sometimes they just make me confused altogether.

 

 

When I listen to the stories of my peers from Ireland, Palestine and Israel it forces me to reflect on South Africa and where we are in relation to conflict. How are we defined? What did we get right? What do we need to be fighting for or against back home?

 

 

Formally our era of segregation, oppression and conflict has ended. But like Jess, who prefers to refer to a post-1994 South Africa, I am weary of saying that we are post-conflict. In fact I think South Africa is a society still in conflict (or at least one that is conflicted) - be that an underlying conflict of identity and social ownership, or the very much above-ground and globally visible violent conflict of perpetrators of violence.

 

 

Yesterday, Jess and Matt spoke about the need for the 'healing' that a country like South Africa needs to go through to be an ongoing process. I think in South Africa there was a difficult balance to strike between the urgency to right the socio-economic wrongs suffered by a majority which required immediate policy action  and the emotional and social reconciliation that needed to happen for each and every single person. Today, almost 20 years down the line, it may look like as though the mechanisms such as the Truth and Reconciliation rushed the latter in the interest of addressing the former as fast as possible. This begs the question - when in 2013 we are not miraculously an undoubtedly post-conflict society, do we just hope that South Africans will forgive and forget? Do we just hope that the answer lies in a new generation that does not remember? Or does that young generation, or rather this young person take responsibility for this incredibly difficult task of healing upon herself? And if so, how?

 

 

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Under a different set of stars.

by Wiaan Visser
Wiaan Visser
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on Thursday, 11 July 2013
Experience 0 Comment

This weekend I traveled with my host family to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. I could not have asked for more of a contrast between the two consecutive weekends which I spent in the Empire State. New York City was frantic at almost every hour of the day, while time itself is almost irrelevant in upstate NY.


We stayed in the small town of Glenora on the Western side of Seneca Lake. There is some humour in the classicist getting the opportunity to go somewhere named after a great Roman philosopher and statesmen. The whole upstate New York is in fact littered with references to the ancient and European world. Seneca Lake is flanked by the towns of Ovid and Geneva while the nearby town of Ithica is on the way to the city of Syracuse. They say it’s the only place in the world where you can go from Sicily to Egypt in under half an hour.

 

While Washington gives you some insight into the inner workings of the US, it does not really give you perspective of what is happening on the ground. It’s comparable to someone seeing Cape Town and then being content with having visited Africa. This is even more so in the US; a country so vast and culturally diverse that you would not be able to experience all of it in many lifetimes. Glenora granted me the opportunity to open the door a little wider.

I was lucky enough to visit a Mennonite farm stall. They are a fascinating people worth reading up about. Historically the Amish community is an offshoot of the Mennonites and thus there are several parallels between the two denominations. Like the Amish they shun many forms of modern technology and prefer to live in their own tight knit communities. Their tractors have wheels made of steel (because rubber is somehow taboo), and they are dressed as if they came straight out of the 19th century (hipsters have a long way to go). The experience was almost surreal. It wasn't what I was expecting as part of my ‘Murica adventure, but it added to it in a way another impressive skyscraper never could.

 

A country is more than just the aggregation of its infrastructure or natural resources; I firmly believe rather that a country’s success is a function of its people. It’s the American people who made America great. It had advantages in terms of its vast tracks of land and resources, but so did many other countries.  We see how resources in these countries have become a curse rather than a blessing; we see how corrupt and illegitimate governments have spurned the same opportunities which the USA had. There was a period during the 18th century where the Cape Colony was the third richest area in the world, behind only London and Amsterdam. During the mid 20th century (shortly after decolonization) Africa had a higher average GDP per Africa than South-East Asia. We faced the same struggles and Africa arguably had far more opportunities.

Despite all our struggles South Africa is still the largest economy in Africa; it’s almost baffling when you consider our past. Even if Nigeria overtakes us, our GDP per Capita is still more than double what theirs is.South Africa is still the beacon of hope in Africa. With all this opportunity, where is our country going?

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