The dangers of stereotyping: thoughts from an under 18 volunteer in South Africa
Have you ever had your preconceived ideas about a place challenged? An under 18 volunteer with GVI in South Africa shares how the ideas they arrived with were turned around as they got to know the community they worked with.
Here are their thoughts:
Many people, from all over the world, make stereotypes regarding the people of Africa and their cultures. However many of these people have never stepped foot onto the magnificent continent that is Africa.
In any society, there are aspects that could be improved and there are aspects that could improve other societies.
Throughout my excruciatingly short two weeks with GVI in South Africa, I have observed more small acts of kindness than I have seen in a year back home. Other volunteers and I spent a week and a half on an under18s construction project building a greenhouse.
There was not a single day that my face did not express the pure delight and happiness that came with seeing the joy of community members as they passed our project.
Every so often an individual would walk by, glance up, and smile at the project’s creation, with the benefits it would have for the community. Not once was our work halted by members of the community. They made the experience one I will never forget.
Back home, our work may have been vandalised, questioned, and disrespected, but here in this community, it brought everyone immense joy. Nothing will ever compare to being given a thumbs up from a young boy strolling past on his way home from school or a pair of middle-aged women stopping to admire our handiwork and express their gratitude.
Nothing will ever compare to the feeling of completing all of the walls or finally finishing the roof of the greenhouse. Nothing will ever compare to the happiness I saw and felt during my time on that construction project.
There is a generalisation made about the people of South Africa. They are said to be sad, impoverished, and living in immense despair. Stereotypes never give the full picture.
Never in my life have I been encapsulated in a community full of such happiness, diversity, and pure joy to be alive.
Many people solely focus on the negative aspects of life, when in actuality there is happiness in everything if only you have courage and desire to look hard enough.
That is what have learnt from my time with GVI in South Africa.
Volunteering abroad as an under 18 has many advantages. While GVI no longer runs construction projects in Cape Town, you can sign up for the Cape Town adventure and cultural immersion teen volunteer program. Take the step and get ready to explore your own insights. Apply today.
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