From Home to Harvest: My Cultural Immersion and Volunteer Experience in Cape Town - Christy Nguimbou
Hello, I’m Christy Nguimbous. Leaving my country and travelling alone to South Africa was one of the most terrifying yet exciting experiences of my life.
As I boarded the plane in Douala, I couldn't stop thinking, "What if something goes wrong? What if I miss my connecting flight?" The string of what-ifs continued when I arrived in Addis Ababa, and even after landing in Johannesburg, I couldn't stop wondering and fretting about what-ifs as I raced through the airport to catch my flight to Cape Town, which I nearly missed. When I arrived in Cape Town, I was worn out either from overthinking from being sick or a combination of the two. But as I entered the Cape Town airport and saw a giant banner « Welcome to Cape Town Take Action Lab » held by the TAL staff, all of my stress and sickness vanished.
I also met Sofia and Tania, two of my future housemates with whom I shared a ride to Observatory, where I spent the next three months.
This part of the town was distinctive with its graffiti on every building and the presence of restaurants, bars, karaoke, and many other amazing places. It was different from what I'd always known in Cameroon and seen on TV. I met 16 fantastic people in my house, and this was just the beginning. When the majority of the students came in the evening, we decided to stroll around and visit all five of the student's houses.
During this time, I met other students from the cohort, and I was going to learn from and share with them for the next three months. For the first time in my life, I was separated from my family and had to learn how to live with others while respecting their cultures, diets, or beliefs. I learned more about the host country, South Africa through cultural series and tours, and some of the sites, I visited included "The Company's Garden," the Slave Lodge, and Iziko Museums I also did many hikes like Signal Hills and Table Mountain, and we even saw Africa's southernmost point.
My days were defined by going to my apprenticeship site, The Sakhulwazi Women's Hub, where I volunteered as a farmer, learned about the community's issues and learned more about the history of Sakhulwazi and the individuals who work there. After that, I usually cooked or went out for lunch and dinner with friends, and we also explored more of Cape Town together. I did not mainly volunteer at my apprenticeship site, but I was required to build an asset map based on my knowledge of the community's concerns and assets that could be used to address these problems.
Take Action Lab was a one-of-a-kind experience that allowed me to broaden my worldview, build greater confidence in myself, and test my social and problem-solving abilities.
I'm grateful to have been one of those students.