Earlier this year, five SFU students traveled to Cape Town, South Africa with the Light and Love Home organization to support humanitarian projects in the township of Enkanini. They recently spoke to the OLC to share their story with us.
All five were supported by the C.A.R.E. SFU Global Travel Award C.A.R.E. SFU Global Travel Award, a program that funds SFU students doing humanitarian work in developing countries with donated air mile points. After hearing about the award, the students approached Light and Love Home to join one of the organization's multiple global outreach projects.
"Going to Africa was one of my dreams when I was a child, I wanted to help out the poor. C.A.R.E. helped my dream come true!"
Wai Ying Chau Kio, recent grad
Once in South Africa, the five of them spent over 2 months teaching in an after school program and facilitating a community feeding program. Lesson plans included anything from English to dancing to tae kwon do.
"I know that the children there have lots of broken families, and they really need the love and the care there. I remember we'd go there and they'd come and embrace us. They were very just joyful to see us,"
Tiffany Kwong, co-op student
As you might expect, the township was severely disadvantaged, lacking electricity and sewage systems.
"There were also fleas!" Katy Law says with a mix of recoil and nostalgia. "In the township, there are lots of fleas, and sometimes we would bring them back home. We'd usually have to wash our load of clothes every day after going to Enkanini."
Despite the nuisances, the five girls weren't afraid to get their hands dirty. They even found time to build an entire recreational facility for the kids. "Drilling, hammering, mixing concrete. You name it!"
Their volunteerism in turn inspired over a hundred University of Cape Town students to join their cause.
"We actually went up to the students [on campus]. We took initiative to introduce the people to our club, to tell them what it's about. Most of them found it very meaningful so that's why they came and joined,"
Katy, Health Sciences and Kinesiology Student
These new recruits form the newest chapter of the worldwide Love Your Neighbour Club. Originally started as a campus initiative at SFU, additional chapters have been formed at UBC, Langara, as well as in New York, Fiji, and Sydney. The new Cape Town chapter will aim to continue on the outreach work in Enkanini, as well as to potentially go on international trips themselves with Light and Love Home.
During their time there, the girls got to immerse themselves in to the South African culture. They learned a bit of the local language, X'hosa. The girls laugh as they demonstrate the clicking sounds that are a part of the X'hosa language. They also describe passion fruit as a typical South African staple, pointing out that even frozen yoghurt comes in passion fruit flavor! Outings to the beach, a visit to an ostrich farm, and cheetah spotting were other highlights of the trip.
Recent grad Lois Fong names "the concept of time and schedules" as the number one cultural difference between South Africans and Canadians.
"For us, 11:00 is 11:00. For them, they don't really [keep track of] time. So, if our program starts around 4, some might come at 3, some might come at 5."
The others agree and Wai Ying adds, "People also build trust and confidence face to face, not by other means of communication. Yet, people are very nice and they are willing to help."
When asked if they would travel abroad for humanitarian work again, each of them answered a resounding YES. They go on to relay their most rewarding and memorable experiences.
"It really opened my eyes to the needs of the world. I want to do something that's more meaningful in the future, to do something that helps others. It helped me also to gain a lot of skills that I can use in the future. I did a lot of administration work, learning how to communicate with other students, and how to recruit them to our club."
Winnie Ng, Marketing student
"I gained friendships over there. Living with each other helped me to grow, too. People would remind me what I should do better. I was very happy to live with them,"
"Singing with the children in Enkanini was one of the most rewarding experiences. The first time interacting with these children was a Sunday. They formed a circle and started singing with all their voices. Their songs and voices resonated in my heart again and again. This taught me that the best way to teach the children is by singing. I learned many songs in their native language. Learning their language was a way for me to build a trust in them."
"When we built the house together, I really saw how a true team works. Each of us has our own special talents. We also had fun in the process. When we were building it, it didn't seem like it was very hard or that tiring. Afterwards, when you look back, it's like, 'Wow, we did that!'"
Thinking of doing outreach work in a developing country? The students give their advice on how to successfully apply for the C.A.R.E. SFU Global Travel Award:
Prepare any documentation that you might need to identify yourself abroad.
Having your valid passport is important.
Bring your driver's license if you can (international driver's license is recommended.)