Allison Lee graduated from Fordham College at Rose Hill on May 21 and left two days later to lead a group of Global Outreach (GO) students on a service and immersion project in the nation’s second-most-populous city. The students and one chaperone spent 11 days experiencing the food and local customs, working with local groups, and being educated about the inequalities and injustices left over from South Africa’s apartheid.
Lee called the experience “eye-opening.”
The group traveled among city settlements, impoverished townships, and the outlying Cederberg mountains, where they learned firsthand about injustices the locals face. They experienced local culture, trying exotic foods like kudu (antelope), crocodile, apricot mebos, and a homemade meal from a local cook. During a guided tour of the region, they watched, and then learned, local tribal dances.
Working with the nonprofit organization Mother’s Unite and Grandmothers Against Poverty & AIDS (GAPA), students engaged in discussions with local leaders working to better their community. In turn, they learned how to bring back these ideals to improve their own communities, said student Ian Roden.
“There’s people stepping up and getting active and making a difference every single day,” said Roden, a rising junior majoring in journalism.
The group also worked with the Elisabethfontein school and the Lavender Hill school to teach prepared lesson plans. Roden said GO students helped the schools’ teachers educate the children, played games, and discussed major issues facing the community, such as bullying and HIV/AIDS.
Lee, an education major just launching her career in Teach for America, said interacting with the children was a powerful and emotional experience.
“The students had so much hope and optimism” despite statistics that show that most [students]drop out, she said. “Their teacher spoke passionately about the schools. It was touching that he believed in his students so much.”
For GO chaperone AnnMarie Boccuzzi, GABELLI ’10, GSS ’16, assistant director for regional outreach in the Office of Alumni Relations, the highlight of the trip was watching Fordham students “expand their vision of the world.”
“Watching the students go through the transformation from being unaware of the social justice issues at hand to being bothered by what they were experiencing had a huge impact on me,” Boccuzzi said. “We all came into this project at different points in our lives, but you find you’re all grounded by what you’re learning.”
“GO has pushed me to pursue social justice and equality, which will always be present in my mind,” Lee said. “It’s definitely ‘ruined my life’ in the best way.”
– Nadine DeNinno