Santa Sabina Collge South Africa Immersion 2018

Our 2018 Immersion to South Africa was undoubtedly everything and more than the 10 of us could have ever anticipated. Spending 15 days living in a foreign country and immersing ourselves into the culture and lifestyle was honestly, very intimidating at first. This was especially because South Africa is a country that is commonly seen on the world stage for its issues surrounding poverty and crime and although you often hear about the rich culture that exists within the country, it’s difficult to truly understand this diversity without living within it. After arriving home, I along with my 9 incredible friends, all feel as though we left pieces of ourselves in South Africa, but so much of the experience is deep in our hearts and the memories that we made will last a lifetime.

The emotional trauma that is placed upon so many families was particularly evident when we visited the cemetery on our second day of the trip. Prior to arriving at the cemetery, we attended Sunday morning mass at St Paul’s Catholic Church, which was certainly an incredible display of life and celebration within the small community. Later when we arrived at the cemetery, Sister Sheila debriefed us on the heart-breaking reality of poverty within that community and so many surrounding it. She explained poetically that ‘with life, comes death and sadness’. We walked past hundreds of graves of children who had passed away, many of these deaths being caused by HIV/AIDS. Not only was the death of infants and young children heart-breaking enough, but so many of these graves had only a brick with a number engraved on it to represent that child who had been buried there. Each of us felt confronted and we were hit with realisation that every family, every child and every mother who live within these townships, have been affected deeply by issues such as HIV/AIDS, domestic abuse and extreme poverty. Although it was not new information to any of us that there are many young children who are disadvantaged throughout South Africa, walking along these gravesites was a defining moment during the immersion. The hour we spent at the cemetery provided us with insight into the dignified spirit that is present amongst families living within such devastating circumstances.

When talking about the immersion, something that I always seem to mention is how touched I was by the warmth within entire communities. When we arrived and both Kopanang and Montebello, we were repeatedly greeted with the words, ‘you are welcome here’. When we would walk through the townships to get home, children would run up to you just to give you a hug and say ‘hi’. Even when we performed a not-so-great rendition of a High School Musical song for the local parish, everyone stood up, danced and clapped along, some even requested encores. Small moments like these throughout the two weeks constantly reminded us of the integral values that are held throughout the communities in which we were living and visiting. These values were love, positivity, a strong sense of faith and what I believe was the most immanent value, gratitude. These expressions of unconditional love truly made a difference in our lives and undeniably left a mark that we all have taken home with us. It has allowed us to realise the privileges that we can so easily and so often take for granted.

S Burt

Santa Sabina College