I finally wrapped up my Barcelona posts and, for the most part, my around the world trip posts. I’m ready to forge ahead and share more about my adventures in South Africa now. I’ve been journaling like a madwoman, and I have so many fun and ridiculous stories to tell that I don’t even know where to start! I’m currently on a luxury safari, but it’s probably best to take you back four weeks ago when I landed in South Africa.
I mentioned in a previous post that I’m working in South Africa just for the summer. I’m working for a company that takes college students and young professionals to rural Kenya and South Africa to teach and create future social entrepreneurs through field experience. My role is advising six students and facilitating the curriculum for the institute. The curriculum is centered around asset-based community development. A traditional needs-based development model goes into an area and points out what the area is lacking- no school, no clinic, not enough water, etc. We take the opposite approach and look at what resources and skills a community has and turn those resources into social businesses. There’s also a very practical component of human-centered design thinking.
During the first week of the program, the students are immersing themselves in the community. We value shared austerity, which is why the students live in homestays and eat and live like locals. How can one design a business with a local if they don’t know the ways of the locals? Through a series of activities, they learn about the community, the way of life, and meet as many people as possible. After, the students spend a few days focusing on themselves and their own skills and then decide on community partners. They will have five weeks to work with the community partners to brainstorm micro-enterprises, create a prototype to test the market, and refine their ideas. We bring no monetary aid, which is why it’s important that the idea leverages local resources and is an idea that ultimately comes from the community.
I came to South Africa a week ahead of my students. I did a few days of in-country training followed by five days in the village to learn the area and find homestays for my students. I’m not gonna lie- it’s been a bumpy ride thus far. My leadership skills have been tested, and my patience has been put on the chopping block. In total, there are 22 students on our South Africa program. Get 22 really diverse and rowdy college students together, and you can only imagine the challenges. If I felt like my strengths and weaknesses were in the gray area before, I see them very black and white now. I’m only halfway through my stay here, and I can’t even tell you how much I’ve learned in just four weeks. My personal goals for the trip were heavily focused on the social entrepreneurship aspect. While I have gained a lot of field knowledge, I’ve also grown leaps and bounds in the leadership department and seen what works and what doesn’t. I’ve dealt with issues that I never even dreamt of occurring.
But when it comes down to it, no one really wants to read about the job, and quite frankly, my tidbits of randomness about village life for an American girl in South Africa are really far more entertaining. Now- do I begin with the story of the chief telling the village not to fondle my breasts or about my recent win in a kudu poop spitting contest?