“I left part of my heart in South Africa,” commented Mount Madonna School (MMS) senior Quincy Mitchell. “And in return it has given me a piece of its soul that I shall carry with me forever.”
Mitchell’s comment came during the September 23 Sawubona Project presentation at MMS. ‘Sawubona’, Zulu for ‘I See You’, is the name of a year-long project which culminated in a June journey to South Africa for MMS’ senior class. The project was developed as part of the “Values in World Thought” social studies course, a two-year curriculum for MMS 11th and 12th graders.
The presentation began with a video screening showing scenes – at times poignant, joyful and humorous – from their African experience; followed by each of the 16 students sharing aspects of the trip holding special meaning for them. The students then fielded questions from 200 family, friends and community members who came to hear them speak.
For those attending, it was impossible to miss the depth and power of the experiences that ranged from interviews with Archbishop Desmond Tutu to a visit to a children’s AIDS village called Botshabelo; to a conversation with a former Robben Island prisoner of the apartheid era. Senior Kellyn Cardinal, inspired by meeting Linzi Thomas, founder of the MylifE youth development organization, shared a poem that she wrote:
Staring at blank sheets of paper was the same feeling he felt while living on the streets.
Empty – Blank – Lost.
That feeling soon became his norm and everyday reality.
Left living in the townships, exposed.
Exposed to gangs, exposed to drugs, exposed to violence, exposed to rape. Too young be on his own, he had to accept defeat.
His future led to crack.
His future led to prison and his future led to “active robbery.”
This is an easy possibility for 7,000,000 homeless living in South Africa.
He could say the MylifE organization saved his life.
A beacon of hope and the courage to change was all he wanted.
One woman gave him that.
She opened her heart
and he opened the door to her home and saw a room full of possibilities.
He turned his back to the road of struggle and took on an even harder task.
…the path to recovery.
The students spoke of being inspired by the friendliness and openness of the people of South Africa, and the incredible passion and talent of the young people they met. They told of the many paradoxical moments of seeing so many people who were able to find joy and engender some special aspect of humanity, in spite of living in conditions where basic material needs are uncertain or absent.
The students frequently referred to the qualities of openness, hospitality, and welcoming by those who had only themselves and their friendship to to give. It was a deep lesson in what it means to be human, and inspired a sense of wanting to give something back.
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Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.