I wanted to start this off with a fantastic quote, deep and moving, but for me a quote cannot describe the change that has occurred from within me and my peers throughout this journey here in South Africa. I am truly grateful to have been a part of this journey with a group of such intelligent, compassionate, and driven individuals. The experience definitely would not have been the same without their support, guidance, and love.
Throughout this journey in South Africa I have been looking for that one moment that would spark my curiosity and would lead to me to my digital story for our final project. I began to doubt myself and overanalyze situations, I tried to elicit that moment from other experiences, but it felt forced. Until the day I stepped foot into the girls bathroom at Manenberg Primary School. Alright, now that was a weird transition wasn’t it? But seriously my “light-bulb” moment occurred. I don’t feel the need to go into detail on the conditions of the bathrooms or toilets, but I will say they are not good. As I looked around I noticed that the soap dispensers had been removed from the walls. I do not know if that was from children messing around or if they had been removed. Either way, there was no soap, no paper towels, and no hand dryers. As I walked out of the bathroom, not using it because I had personally reached my limits, I couldn’t help but think about how these children washed their hands after using the toilet. I noticed multiple children constantly coughing and blowing their noses throughout our sessions. I began to stew over this for a couple days, wondering why these children didn’t have access to soap, and if they did have access to soap wouldn’t this prevent a lot of common illnesses that sometimes become full blown illnesses?
So I thought about this, wrote about it in my journal, figured “oh, it would be lovely for these children to have soap…” After much thought I realized that instead of simply stating what I mentioned above, I can actually help this school community with the resources I have at home. I cannot simply spend all my money buying soap for a school in Manenberg, but I have the resources to write grants to corporations to send a continuous supply of hand soaps, towels, or install hand dryers for these children. This issue is something I cannot turn my back on. It may seem so simple; some may say, “Why don’t they just go buy a bottle of soap?” It is not that simple, this school is tight on resources, and the toilets do not even have toilet paper in the stalls. Most children tell us they bring toilet paper from home, which is another issue I plan on addressing. Either way, I know with the right tools and the support I have had from my peers and my enthusiastic professor, Dr. DeMuth, I know that I can advocate for these children and I can help facilitate a way to meet one of their most basic needs: hand soap.
I have learned from this experience that I have taken things for granted, especially soap; but these children in Manenberg are human and they deserve to be able to live a healthy childhood free of harsh illnesses. They also deserve to feel clean and should be given the chance to prevent the spread of germs in their school. I am confident in myself that I can provide the product and am confident that there are companies in the United States that would understand my point of view.
With all that being said, I am confident that I can contribute something to a community that has made an impact on me personally and will remain engrained in my memories. I am not judging their conditions; they simply work with what they are given, but would simply like to share resources that are available to me. Humans need to help each other out, it is in our nature, plain and simple, and that is what I am compelled to do.
Ultimate goal: full soap containers in the bathrooms at Manenberg Primary School.