Dallas, TX | Economics, African American Diaspora Studies | 2018
Nancy Anosike is a junior in the College of Arts & Science at Vanderbilt University. She is from Dallas, TX although she was born in Imo State, Nigeria. Nancy is a double major in Economics and African-American and Diaspora Studies with a minor in French. This summer, she will be joining the OACS Service Learning Experience cohort in South Africa. This program focuses on community development within a nation in transition. Along with her cohort members and local staff, Nancy will be training students at a local academic institution in various skills in order to expand their future economic and educational prospects.
To read more about Nancy’s experiences in South Africa, please visit her page on the South Africa 2017 Cohort blog.
Blog Post One:
Our day begins at 6 AM. Perhaps, if you took a shower the night before, you could wake at 7, but you have to be clothed, fed, and on the bus by 7:30. Service begins at 8 AM for those of us working at Bethelsdorp (BD) High School. At BD, we are divided into two groups of four. One group focuses on English teaching with the 8th grade classes. The other group, which includes myself, focuses on computer literacy, and although the 11th and 12th graders get priority, we will be receiving nearly every class at Bethelsdorp High School at least once over the course of our time in PE.
We began our first day of service without a clear plan. The computers did not have internet, the students are extremely varied in their levels of computer literacy, and we were unsure of how to interact with the students. However, over the course of our first week, we have met incredible students and learned more about service in education than we expected to. As I prepare for the coming week, I reflect on the four most important lessons that I have learned, and I want to share these.
- Service is a lifestyle. It requires mental, physical and emotional dedication. I say this, because each day of service and programs has left me exhausted. However, my 8 AM – 2 PM service hardly compares with the work that other teachers and community leaders or nonprofit directors have to do in order to make sure that they serve these underprivileged communities in the capacity they deserve. This dedication to service requires a complete reorientation of one’s mentality to accommodate the daily effort. In this way, experience has no substitute.
- Teachers are the unsung heroes of the past, present, and future. They do the grunt work, the monotonous work, the difficult work, to make sure that our societies continue to move forward. They do all of this with a large amount of off-the-clock effort. Getting a small taste of the average teachers’ required workload has given me a heightened appreciation for the behind the scenes work necessary to matriculate students, especially in challenged communities.
- It is imperative to show special attention to the students who are less interested in education and their professional life. The temptation exists to give preferential treatment to students who are more excited about academia and learning, because they are more responsive and want to complete their work. It is difficult to work with students who do not show the same enthusiasm, but they are the ones who need us the most. It has become clear to me that just a little extra push and attention will foster their own excitement about productive discussions about their future.
- The hospitality here in Port Elizabeth from BD faculty, staff, and other community leaders in PE has been the best I have experienced. The South African people we have met so far have shown so much care towards us that I feel spoiled. I simply hope to make sure that I thank them by giving my best efforts to my service for the time that I am here.
I certainly am looking forward to the next week. I know that there are challenges that my computer teaching team has faced thus far, but the incredible thing about a new day is that it brings the possibility of betterment. We are growing as a group, but also as individuals in service and this is reflected in our conversations and actions.
Blog Post Two:
Six weeks is not a very long time. I knew this prior to my arrival in South Africa, however, I did not anticipate the sense of finality that would grip me in the final moments of my time here. Surrounded by the incredible members of my cohort who I have gotten to know so well, I cannot help but feel an immense gratitude towards everyone who contributed to making this trip some of the best moments of my life. Our last night as a group, we had an affirmations session where one person affirmed someone else in the group and it continued on in that way until everyone had received an affirmation. It was my first time doing this activity with a large group, and it was a beautiful experience. It truly demonstrated how this was a special group of people, and we all touched each other’s lives in different ways. That evening was, for me, something that our group likes to refer to as a “snow globe moment,” that one moment that you would like to capture and cherish forever. We capped off our session with a rousing round of the South African national anthem, taught to us by our isiXhosa teacher weeks prior. We stumbled over certain parts and not a soul was in tune (except perhaps our resident vocalist Ajike Sumpter), and we laughed through it all. That night, at the end of a 6-week journey accompanied by 16 others, I realized that my biggest takeaways from this service trip came from my fellow Vanderbilt students. From them, I observed selflessness, openness and love. They embodied service in ways I had yet to encounter and challenged me to expand my world view, bringing unique perspectives to our common journey. They inspired me to take away a deeper sense of responsibility to my own humanity and the humanity of others in a way that would extend beyond my time in South Africa. The value of this cohort experience deserved special acknowledgement because it has significantly contributed to my own growth both as a student and citizen of the world. So, with utmost gratitude, I extend great thanks to the OACS South Africa 2017 cohort.