Belmont Abroad | Service Learning in Africa
Belmont University annually sends a group of students on a Service Learning in Africa program. Over the last 10 years more than 150 students have been on this life-changing journey to South Africa, Botswana or Tanzania. The main focus of this educational service learning program is to serve the community while being immersed in the political, artistic, and spiritual life of the culture.
This year the itinerary started in Cape Town with educational site visits to Robben Island, District 6 Museum and the Bo-Kaap area as well as the scenic Cape Point Nature Reserve and a hike up Table Mountain. The students learned more about the local cultures through various interactive activities such as a Cape Malay Cooking Class and by serving at our Pre-School Service Learning Project.
A quick stop in Johannesburg took the students to Constitution Hill and into Soweto, where they paid the Hector Peterson memorial a visit before enjoying dinner at a local restaurant. From here the Belmont students took a flight to Arusha, Tanzania where they got to experience the friendly nature of the Maasai people. They served the local communities through an Agriculture Service Learning Project by digging contours to fight soil erosion. A hike up Kigali Mountain and a game drive through the Ngorongoro Crater made sure the students saw some of Tanzania’s best views and wildlife.
One of the Belmont students, Marissa, opens up about what this experience to Africa meant to her:
Why did you join the Service Learning in Africa program?
“I decided to join this Belmont Abroad program on a whim, my friend decided she was going to go to knock out some general education credits, so I told her she could not go to a different country without me, and I applied. I was so worried when going to Nashville International Airport, there were so many unknowns. What really was going to happen in Africa? These overwhelming thoughts flooded my brain, I almost missed the flight out to Atlanta! Upon arrival in Cape Town, my feet began to pace back and forth, I almost wanted to take off running from pure excitement. I had no idea what lied ahead of me.”
What experiences stood out for you?
“Meeting the children at Red Hill pre-primary school in the townships of South Africa has changed my complete outlook on life; be grateful for what you have, but relish in what you don’t. These children are living in the most destitute of areas, but for some reason it never felt more like home. I have worked in childcare since the age of fourteen, from babysitting for neighbors and working for a daycare in an upscale neighborhood. I never expected to see was how bright and hopeful these children were. It took my breath away when I saw the one decoration that they had, because it was the same one hanging in the classroom I taught at back in the States. I will never know the level of community that these people do, the amount of love and trust they have for their neighbors, and the blessing of hope and knowing God is working and you just have to keep living.
Another experience that stood out to me was just sitting in the back of the bus in Tanzania, staring at all the people we drove by. It is so fascinating to see that there is so much life outside of my little bubble and just how small I truly am in comparison to the earth as a whole. The way children chased down our van and the way their whole day was made just by a simple hello. In the States, we are very much so connected, virtually, and the idea of knowing who your neighbor is has completely vanished since the birth of Facebook. Being completely disconnected from every device and just American people in general was so liberating. It shook my soul.”
How did this trip impact you?
This trip completely shook my spiritual life as well. Seeing God’s works in a different continent was breathtaking, and being able to see Him working in us as a group was humbling. Africa has changed my personhood completely and it seems to be the only subject that I can talk about, ever. This trip has taught me that I no longer want to work in the music industry, it is just not fulfilling and is so superficial. Instead, I heard the voice of God tell me that I needed to be in Africa, teaching, and helping students there discover their passions and how God is going to help them discover their destiny.
I recommend this trip to everyone and I wish, more than anything, to be able to recreate it myself, because it is life giving. Being out of your element, with the most humble and steadfast tour guide, Jeremy, has altered my complete outlook on life and I am so happy that I can never be the same.”
“This trip has taught me so much about the world, I’ve learned to embrace other cultures and learn from people different than me. I’ve seen parts of the world that are so beautiful they don’t seem real and have developed a thirst for knowledge about the world and how I can make an impact. I’ve grown spiritually, emotionally and intellectually during my time in Africa.”
“This trip has taught me so much about the world, I’ve learned to embrace other cultures and learn from people different than me. I’ve seen parts of the world that are so beautiful they don’t seem real and have developed a thirst for knowledge about the world and how I can make an impact. I’ve grown spiritually, emotionally and intellectually during my time in Africa.”Jordan
This trip was incredible because it let you be a part of the culture and lend a helping hand while also seeing the beauty of the countries and the history of them as well.
This trip was incredible because it let you be a part of the culture and lend a helping hand while also seeing the beauty of the countries and the history of them as well.Jessie
Photo Credit: Quinn Rogers