Courtney Jones traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, during the summer of 2012 and volunteered at the Abaphumeleli Safety Home located in Khayeltisha Township. The safety home housed nearly thirty children between the ages of 6 months to 14 years old. Courtney assisted in the creation of lesson plans and activities for the younger children each week. The thought and care put into each lesson plan allowed for a variety of interesting topics ranging from space exploration to zoo animals. For some of the children, it was the very first time they had ever used paint or a disposable camera. Through her interactions at the safety home, Courtney learned about the pitfalls of the South African education system and the effects on its youth. Each week, the students and teachers grew closer, and the children grew to call her “sisi”, the isiXhosa term for “respected sister”. Courtney’s study abroad program did an excellent job of offering excursions that truly exposed her to Cape Town’s culture. She enjoyed a home-stay in the historic Muslim community of Bo-kaap and hiked one of the natural wonders of the world. Courtney was especially moved by her experience in Cape Town upon realizing that for the first time she was a part of the racial majority. It was a feeling that she never expected, but she welcomed the experience with open arms.
CEE Title: FITTsburgh Shares
Our CEE, FITTsburgh Shares, aimed to touch the Pittsburgh community by addressing the needs of elementary and middle school children. We found that the youth in certain areas of Pittsburgh were affected by a lack of adequate sporting goods, just as we had witnessed abroad in our host countries. Without these resources, children may be less likely to lead healthy and active lifestyles. The five of us decided to create a sports equipment drive over the span of four months in order to receive donations that we could deliver to the Hazelwood YMCA. We promoted our drive by advertising throughout the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University campuses. By speaking at events that promoted female empowerment, we raised awareness about the needs of others and poverty right here in Pittsburgh. Each of us worked diligently to collect, organize, and distribute all of the gracious donations we received. However, in order to truly impact the community we decided to create a conclusion ceremony at the Hazelwood YMCA. At the ceremony, we created four stations for the children to travel through during the afternoon. Our stations focused on healthy foods, positive body image, important stretches, and the impact of high sugar intake. We were able to fulfill the YMCA’s need for proper sports equipment and educate the group through our stations. Our CEE allowed us to witness what a difference our drive would make for the children at the YMCA. We were all greatly impacted by our experiences abroad, and were dedicated to reflecting on what we learned in order to take action in our own community.