Today is our last non-travel day in Cape Town and in South Africa. It will take time for me to fully process my new experiences and lessons learned. But today we ended on a high note.
A busy day like so many of our others, today began with a visit to the Sozo Foundation. Sozo was founded by a youth pastor and her husband who were South Africa natives living in the U.K. when they felt called to comeback and serve Vrygrond, a poor, gang-ridden township. The couple moved to the area, joined and volunteered with the youth at the local church, and got to know the area. They then went to work building an after-school and Saturday program that included homework help, mentors, counseling, and workshops on topics such as health. As they became known in the community, they began a gardening initiative, providing supplies and knowledge for local families to start their own eating gardens. Families who often struggle for food were able to create sustainable garden beds to feed their children and sell extra produce.
Recently, they began a program called Youth Cafe to combat the community’s high unemployment rate of young adults. They built a trendy coffee shop in their building with separate spaces for a computer lab and workshops. Students could initially be trained to work as a barista or in hospitality. The Youth Cafe program has since branched out to include tracks for graphic design, hairdressing, and technical skills (carpentry, welding, bricklaying, etc.)–and soon will include an artisan bakery for students to hone their employable skills for the tourist destination of Cape Town.
The staff is Christian-based with a generic (not specifically Christian) prayer room for their use, but the programming is secular in nature and open to students of any or no faith. The program was well supported and appreciated by the community it served and seemed to have solid support from donors.
This evening, we were invited to dine with the Minister of Social Development at the Western Cape Parliament building. We were joined by matric students (seniors in high school/what they call matriculation year), a Rutgers Newark student, and UCT students, among his staff, representatives from parliament, and performers to give us a local taste of Cape Town. They served us a delicious Cape Malay smörgåsbord and provided live music. The Cape Town Mistrals who performed remind me of the Philadelphia Mummers–groups that march, play music, and dance in annual parades in over the top costumes.
Now I am packing, posting my final blog, and setting my sights on returning to the States. I’ve loved my time here, but I can’t wait to be back!