Squatter camp or bust

Nikole - Boudler, Colorado
Entered on October 16, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

Cape Town, South Africa, is a beautiful city, peppered with bodies of water, sailboats, and freightliners. The beauty seen by the naked eye is astounding. Beyond the beauty of the city limits lies a treasure of gratitude. This is a world of hunger, lack of hygiene, and homes built of cardboard and sheets of tin. This is what many refer to as, black South Africa, home of the squatter camps.

I lived here one weekend and taught locals about healthcare. Arriving jarred and shaken, from the van clunking through the dirt paths enmeshed in potholes, I was greeted by a welcoming committee of small children bombarding us with smiles and hugs. We handed out antibiotics, taught about hand washing, and gave out toothbrushes and toothpaste. At sunset, the fires lit up the night providing light and warmth. The men returned home bringing food and water for the night. The women began cooking and sharing everything they had. After preparations had been made, we were given a bowl of white rice and some kind of soup concoction for supper.

As the evening progressed, neighbors gathered around the bonfire singing and dancing with immeasurable joy. The laughter and sharing ended as everyone retreated to the hard, dirt floor to sleep for the evening. I crawled into my sleeping bag, realizing one of the greatest lessons of life was learned tonight, from a people outcast and ostracized by their own nation.

Today, I have many opportunities to give from the knowledge received many years ago from the squatter camps. I believe regardless of the package someone’s life is presented to us in, we should honor and respect them. I also believe that we all have something to teach, to give, and to learn from everyone that passes through our life. We should daily question the opportunities missed and embrace a way for a better tomorrow. Despite the circumstance in life, I believe that love and joy are everywhere if we are willing to take a step back and become grateful for the small things in life.