So Much to Learn

Day three in Pretoria started off early. A 6am wake up followed by some bacon and fried eggs. Delicious! The bus departed Waterkloof at 7:30 for Soweto where we met up with a Groton graduate of the class of ’06, Katie Gannett.  She showed us the facilities for the Grassroots Soccer organization in Soweto after which, we participated in one of their programs for African youths. The purpose of these programs is to educate young Africans about the dangers of HIV/AIDS as well as to build self-confidence and develop other life skills. We divided into two groups and each group participated in part of an actual class.  In the program I was in we danced and sang with the children.   We had a great time sharing our favorite school subjects, sports teams and dance moves. The ability to understand one another beyond the language barrier (the programs are given in Zulu or other African languages) never ceases to amaze me.

After saying goodby to Katie and the Grassroots Soccer participants, we
went to Nelson Mandela’s house. There we were given a history of Mandela’s life (who is affectionately known as “father” in South Africa). Then we toured through his house picking up more information about the man who ended Apartheid. We also visited the memorial for Hector Pieterson, a black youth who was killed while students protested these of Afrikaans as the language of education in South Africa.
To finish the day we drove to St. Andrew’s church where we listened to, and played for The Melodi Music Project.  Melodi Music, conducted by Nimrod Moloto, is an organization that teaches music to kids from all over Soweto, and they are VERY good.  They have made numerous tours to other countries including twice to the Netherlands and to Germany.  After we finished our concerts we were able to chat with the other musicians.  They are remarkable group of people, ranging in age from middle school to the sophomore and junior years of college.  We capped off the trip with some crazy group photos and made the bus ride back to Pretoria where our host families greeted us with a delicious traditional South African dinner and a hot shower.
I can’t wait for tomorrow!
Sam Caldwell
Class of 2013
When we visited one of the programs of Grassroots Soccer, we separated into two groups led by Katie and another worker named Walker.  The Walker group, which I was privileged to be part of, filed into a classroom filled with kids from around five to fifteen years old.  The teacher, or “coach”, as they called the adult leaders of the Grassroots Soccer program, was talking about choices and the importance of making individual choices. Every time someone answered a question, the entire room would snap fingers to support that person’s answer, or, as they said, “felt their answer”- a great way to encourage listening to and supporting each other.  Many of the kids were very engaged in the material and answered the questions with lots of spirit and intellect.  As part of the curriculum, we played a game in which we wandered around  the room chanting “Mingle, mingle, mingle!” until the coach called out a phrase that would require each of the players to choose a group. For example, we had to separate into groups when the coach yelled “Favorite soccer team!” Interestingly, the Korean soccer group attained a lot of fans, while Brazil got two (aka Ben and me).  Afterwards, the coaches related the importance of choice to HIV.  To visually demonstrate the prevalence of the disease in Africa, a coach had 6 people stand in front of the room in a line.  Pointing out one person of the six (our very own Lillian), the coach told us that one out of every six people in Africa has HIV. Crazy!  We were going to play a game outside, but unfortunately, we had limited time and needed to depart for our next adventure.
Naomi
Class of 2013 (Rising 6th former)
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