Nobles has a longstanding relationship with South Africa and, in particular, the Kliptown Youth Program (KYP). Nobles travelers have worked alongside KYP members during many trips over the last decade. This week, for the first time, Nobles hosted KYP members here in the U.S. Ten KYP members stayed with host families during their two-week stay and connected with students, faculty, staff and graduates. One evening, Nobles grads Hannah ’09 and Julia Weber ’11 shared a few words about how much these special connections and friendships have meant to them.
Julia: In 2006, my sister and I were fortunate enough to first visit South Africa, and specifically Kliptown, with the Nobles trip, lead by Mr. Gifford and Ms. Carlson. It sounds completely cliche but this trip truly changed our lives, and the way we view the world. Thanks to the opportunity granted to us by Nobles we were able to establish the foundations for enduring friendships, and have been able to make valid differences in the lives of others, but most importantly our lives were changed by those we have gotten to know and love. After first visiting Kliptown with the 2006 trip, both Hannah and I immediately knew that we had to maintain friendships and if possible give something back to our new friends as they had given us so much in the short time we knew them. The technology provided by One Laptop Per Child was our answer. OLPC is a non-profit organization founded by Nicholas Negroponte, professor at MIT. Negroponte’s dream is to get one of these laptops to every child in the world, starting with those in developing countries. The mission statement, as seen on the OLPC website, states their goal:
[T]o create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. (OLPC)
These computers are able to connect to the Internet, and have e-mail. They have everything a Mac or PC would have, plus more. To me, the beauty of the XOs is that they exist in a flat world, without hierarchy, open to all. Here is where learning happens: in a community where friends from anywhere and everywhere share the world, finding common ground.
After spending two years raising money to purchase 100 XO laptops, Hannah and I and the rest of our family delivered these computers to the children involved in Kliptown Youth Program. These were the first 100 XOs delivered to South Africa, and the first ever to be delivered to the African continent. [KYP Director] Thulani and his team organized an incredible system to help the children, who now own the laptops, use them appropriately. The OLPC laptops now help children in Kliptown, previously isolated in poverty in part due to the legacy of apartheid, expand their hope through access to education and through the knowledge that someone out there believes in their potential. Today, when we are not in Kliptown I, and many others who began their relationship with KYP through the Nobles trip, are still in touch by email, Facebook, and Skype. It has been, and will continue to be, an incredibly humbling and educational experience for us to build relationships with people in the Kliptown community, as we all work together to make tomorrow a little bit better than yesterday. My experience in Kliptown and the awareness brought to me through Nobles, has helped me believe that my generation (all across the globe) has the ability to change our world.
Hannah: Through my time with the community of Kliptown, beginning with the 2006 Nobles trip, I have learned about the partnership of giving and receiving. Giving is an expedition and ongoing process. My own journey of giving has shown me that the relationships developed are the most important aspect of the endeavor. One embarks on this journey thinking such efforts represent a gift to someone else, which at first is true. But the reality is that one comes out of the experience having received just as much, if not more, from those who were supposedly being helped. This has been true in my work with KYP. The children there, and the adults who help run the program are the people who, along with my family, I hold closest to my heart. They have brought me great joy and taught me much about how people live, including the great amount of human nature we all share. Our story could be most anyone’s story in many ways; people reach out to each other and build friendships every day. It is what being human is all about.
I think our experience with the Nobles trip in 2006, our relationship with KYP, and with OLPC, has taught us that it is possible to take large-scale thoughts people discuss about how to affect change in the world and bring it down to individuals. Change happens one person at a time, as each person works with others. The network grows as each person grows. All it takes is little steps. Little steps add up to big ones. Nobles particularly helped us all realize we could reach goals in a better way, simply by making everything we work on personal. Who are we working with, what is the culture, how can the people in the community be strengthened and the culture enriched, what can we learn, and as Mr. Snyder always asks, how can we do this better?
Education should enrich and enhance the progress of a culture, and its people. The Nobles trip and spending time with our friends in Kliptown gave us all the opportunity to learn through living in other cultures day-to-day, participating in family and community traditions, and discovering the inspirations for shared values and beliefs, that travel is the optimal education and that global experiences bind us all together, leaving us better poised for the future.
The success I have been lucky enough to witness in Kliptown leads me to my final point; that the ongoing relationship with our family in Kliptown allowed us to come away with a feeling that there is a way to make a difference. Hope is achieved in finding possibilities in small actions and gestures. It has been an incredibly humbling and educational experience for me to build relationships with all of you in Kliptown, and to watch us all grow and expand our lives together. So, Ngyabonga to everyone here – Kliptown Youth Program and Nobles – for providing not only me with hope but providing our world with hope through the daily difference you make in the lives of those around you. I can assure you that you have truly made a difference in my life. Ngyakuthanda.