We have re-produced the first report, as written by Ambassadorial Scholar Sarah Yousuf of Chicago. For more details please contact Bev Bird, of the Rotary Club of Wynberg.
Rotary First Report
- Please provide information about your study program, including your adaptation and progress.
I am obtaining a Masters in Criminal Law from the University of Cape Town. I am focusing my studies on Juvenile Justice specifically, because I believe that in order to prevent someone from becoming a repeat criminal offender, intervention must occur at an early age. This belief has been supported by my experiences while working at the Cook County Office of the Public Defender. I worked in the Juvenile Court House, and had the chance to see how youth were dealt with in the criminal justice system. Chicago’s violence and incarceration rates are still extremely high, and the system that is currently being utilized is simply not effective. With this degree, I hope to provide alternative, effective solutions to address this problem.
The Masters of Law program involves me taking two classes each semester. For my first semester, I took a class called Police and Policing, and a course called Social Justice in Practice. Both classes were extremely insightful and informative. In my Police and Policing class, I met with other attorneys, judges, and officials in the African Criminal Justice System. They were able to give me insight into how the system in South Africa works and they also gave me a different perspective on criminal justice as it is applied against juveniles.
The Social Justice in Practice class involved an internship component, where I worked with a local non-profit organization. During our internship, we were assigned projects to complete for the semester. My project involved assisting a poor community with finding legal avenues to obtain services such as water, sanitation removal, and electricity. I was very passionate about the project, as I was able to see firsthand the struggles that the underprivileged in South Africa face. Though I am now done with the class, I am planning on continuing to volunteer with the same organization and the project.
I completed the coursework for my first semester and am looking forward to seeing what classes will be offered next semester. Thus far, the masters program has offered me a world of knowledge both in and out of the classroom, and I never dreamed that my global view would be expanded as much as it already has been.
- 2. Describe what steps you and your sponsor Rotarians took to prepare for your experience abroad. How did this preparation help you to meet the challenges of living and studying in your host country?
I could not have succeeded in acclimating to South Africa and my ambassadorial scholarship duties without the help of my sponsor Rotary club. My counselor in particular, Pat Linden, was extremely helpful in going over common questions that scholars were given by people they encountered. He was willing to make time for me to discuss any anticipated issues that I might face, and he helped me come up with ways to tactfully deal with them.
In addition, I contacted and met with several Chicagoland Rotary clubs to practice my presentation and get feedback. This feedback proved extremely helpful in anticipating any questions that arose during my time in South Africa. Also, giving such presentations was excellent practice for when I had to give them in South Africa.
1. 3. How have you been involved in Rotary since you arrived in your host country? Please describe the ambassadorial activities in which you have participated.
I have been extremely fortunate to have been hosted by a very active Rotary club and “host mother.” From the moment I stepped off the plane, the Rotary Club of Wynberg has made me feel at home – the members have invited me to attend their meetings and I have had the pleasure of listening to amazing guest speakers and getting to know the members of my host club. Rotary Wynberg is extremely involved in the community, and they regularly volunteer at charity events and non-profit groups all throughout the city. In addition, they are an extremely social bunch, and regularly have dinner at one another’s homes. They have always invited me to these events and they have become my second family.
Just to give you an example of some of the things that I have been lucky enough to be a part of, thanks to Rotary Wynberg’s support: I have participated in a local 5K walk to raise money to support school lunch programs throughout South Africa, and I was a member of a clean-up team at Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela had been incarcerated for 27 years. A lot of trash gets washed up along its shores, and my team and I picked and sorted various plastics, glass, and other trash to keep the island’s beaches pristine. In addition, I visited local schools in impoverished areas of Cape Town to see what resources they have available to them. The people who run these schools are truly an inspiration to me; they encounter so many hardships, yet they are dedicated to the children who go to their schools.
My host mother has also been an extremely huge help in getting me involved in Rotary events. She makes sure to call and invite me to events that she thinks I will be interested in. She has introduced me to other Rotarians in different clubs around the city; she has helped me to create my social network in the city. In addition, she has driven me to other Rotary clubs so that I can give presentations about myself. I can’t say enough positive things about her-she is my second mother and I can’t imagine South Africa without her!
She also encouraged me to attend the Rotaract District Conference, which occurred the week after I arrived in Cape Town. Though I was extremely jetlagged, I readily agreed, and it was an incredible experience! I got to meet some very passionate, dedicated, and active young leaders, and I have been able to stay in touch with them, as well.
I have said it before, but I am so grateful for the Rotary network – it’s like having good friends anywhere I travel. For example, my friend and I wanted to travel to Oudtshoorn, a couple hours away from Cape Town. We contacted the Rotary there and mentioned that we would be interested in meeting with them and telling them a little about us. Not only were they incredibly happy to have us, they offered us lodgings during our stay! I can’t thank them enough for their incredible hospitality. They suggested sites for us to visit and places to eat. It was a wonderful time, thanks in large part to their generosity and assistance.
Finally, Rotary has inspired me to reach out to people beyond my host country. While at the Rotary District Conference in the United States, I met with an amazing and energetic young Rotarian. She runs an organization for children in Zimbabwe and invited me to come out there if I ever got the chance. I am planning on volunteering at her organization in the middle of January for two weeks and I can’t wait. I would never have gotten this chance had it not been for Rotary.
- What are your first impressions of your host country and the people in your community? Please describe culturally significant locations you have visited and opportunities you have had to share your culture.
My first impressions were that South Africans are overall very welcoming and warm. To use my host mother as an example again, she helped me register for classes, set up a bank account, buy a new phone, and pretty much assisted me in establishing a life in Cape Town. Besides her, however, many friends and acquaintances regularly show care and concern for my wellbeing and safety. As a single woman in a foreign country, I have to always be aware of any risks and dangers to avoid. However, the people I have met recognize these dangers, as well, and offer me rides to places and give me good advice as to how to be cautious.
The people here are also very knowledgeable about politics, on both a national and international level. They have strong opinions about how the country should be run and how to fully integrate people of all racial and socioeconomic walks of life. They are sensitive to the fact that apartheid ended relatively recently – in 1994 – and the people are working towards moving past that era. This can be evidenced by the numerous laws that have been passed to assist the impoverished and the needy, and the large amount of volunteers and non-profit organizations that work in the underprivileged areas. That being said, much work still remains to be done in order to fully integrate all South Africans.
I myself have been surprised at how open and tolerant people in Cape Town are towards both one another and visitors alike. I am Muslim, and I did not expect so many restaurants to cater to the dietary needs of the people of my faith. In fact, many restaurants proudly boast that they do cater to Muslim dietary needs, which is something you don’t often see in the United States. People want to hear about where I come from and my background and they embrace cultural diversity, which has helped me in getting situated here.
In addition, South Africans love sports, and I have attended an international rugby game, which I can now say is one of my favorite sports to watch. Besides rugby, South Africans love cricket and soccer, and I have had quite a few fun nights getting together with friends and rooting for the home team (Cape Town has many sports teams, so there is always something to watch).
Finally, though Cape Town is a modern urban city, its citizens fully embrace the outdoors and the vast wildlife that surrounds it. So much so, that it has become a part of the culture, in a way. As an example, during my first week here, signs posted by the government warned people to watch out for the baboons and to avoid feeding them. I actually ran into a family of baboons crossing the street (in a forested area) on my first day in Cape Town. Also, surfing is a huge activity in Cape Town, but there is a very real danger of shark attacks. Though these attacks are rare, shark spotters are posted at popular surfing locations to warn sea-goers of any potential sharks.
In addition, Cape Town is known for Table Mountain, which the city is built around. It is a beautiful mountain, and hundreds of trails exist around it. I have been able to hike a few, and it’s breathtaking. My university is actually situated at its base and I always am blown away by the beauty of the landscape.
These moments are but a taste of what I have experienced so far, but it has been an amazing ride, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my time here will bring!