My last blog post is one that I have put aside for quite some time, mostly because I have wanted to avoid saying goodbye to my home, my surrogate family, and my life for the past nine months in every possible way. Before my last trip up to Hillcrest, my friend Arno told me “It is the idea of leaving that is sadder than actually leaving”, which seems to be truer everyday. On the days leading up to my departure and even while traveling I had packing and worrying about my baggage arriving in one piece to keep me preoccupied. But now that I am home in the US and the reality of how far I am from the people, projects, and places that I have come to love is sinking in, I can’t help but reminisce and miss everything about Durban.
Nine months ago when I first arrived in South Africa, I had only a vague sense of the work I would be involved with. Following the closure of Sinikithemba at McCord Hospital there was much uncertainty about what my role would be as well as the future of both my host organizations. Over time, my participation with a handful of psychosocial support programs for HIV infected/affected children led to new programs and partnerships for The Gift of Hope and a new children’s program at Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust. Doing my small part to help these organizations grow and seeing children learn while having fun in these programs is what I am most proud of. All the while, I came to understand how my experience in Durban compares to the bigger picture of global health and community development; I saw how the decisions and leadership of a few people can impact thousands both positively and negatively; And, I gained patience, perspective, and more confidence in my own future.
For all these lessons, I have a number of people to thank:
First, to my family- thank you for entertaining my “crazy” idea to move out of the country for a year, for taking the time to visit, checking up on me when I was lonely or sick, and for supporting me at every step of this journey
To my friends in the US- thank you for all the positive encouragement and effort to make me feel a little closer to home
To Union College, Tom, Hal, and Lauren- thank you for giving a group of graduates this chance to fall in love with a community, to learn, to experience, and to think outside the box; thank you for your guidance throughout this past year and for letting me be a part of such meaningful work
And last, but definitely not least, to my friends in Durban- whether we met as roommates, at McCord or HACT, through mutual friends, or due to my excessive visits to a certain cafe: you are all an inspiration in your own unique way. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your lives with me, getting me through the toughest times, and for making Durban my home. I look forward to seeing you all again soon!