My Year of Service

By Kamogelo Masoko

While a lot of people have been living an ordinary life, as ordinary citizens, I have been living an extraordinary life. I have been blessed with the honour and privilege of serving my people, communities, and my world as a whole. In February 2013 my journey as a City Year Service Leader began, and after my training was completed, my teammates and myself were assigned to Somelulwazi Primary School, in Freedom Park, Soweto.

Since joining City Year, my life has changed tremendously. I walk to and from Somelulwazi Primary every day, rain or shine, as taxis, cars, buses, bicycles and motorbikes furiously pass me with amazement and amusement. My teammate Zanele joins me on these walks, and both of us get a chance to demonstrate the City Year founding story of Moccasins, which is adapted from a Cherokee prayer, and goes as follows: “Oh great spirit, grant that I may never criticize my brother or sister until I have walked the trail of life in their moccasins.” Zanele and I put ourselves in our fellow South African’s shoes as they go about their daily commutes, walking and traveling through hardships and happiness.

My role at Somelulwazi Primary, is to facilitate English lessons with grade 7 learners during our after-school programme, which we call the City Year Children’s Club. I also spend time with the learners during the school day to provide them with one-on-one support. The kids that I work with are an inspiring reason for me to serve in Freedom Park. I love the three days a week that I get to serve my community and country, and spend quality time with children of Somelulwazi. As well as tutoring and mentoring the kids, I also help with preparing and serving food for their lunch. My team also spends time working at Freedom Day Care, which takes care of smaller kids. We wash dishes, help with cleaning and prepare and serve them food.

The City Year team serving at Somelulwazi Primary provides hundreds of children with a reason to smile, and gives them an extra incentive to come to school every day. Even though primary school kids are sometimes challenging to work with, I can always see potential in them. They face vast difficulties, and the way that I see it, I can play a part in helping them overcome those difficulties so that they can be successful and happy. After all, it is what we do, not what we say, that ties our humanity to one another. Freedom Park may be my first assignment as a change-maker, but it will most definitely not be my last.

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Ubuntu

Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngamantu. I am a person through other people. My humanity is tied to yours. – Zulu Proverb

The spritual foundation of South African society, Ubuntu involves a belief in a universal bond of sharing and respect that connects all of humanity. Ubuntu is a concept formally recognised by the 1996 South African Governmental White Paper on Welfare as, “The principal of caring for each other’s well-being…and a spirit of mutual support…Each individual’s humanity is ideally expressed through his or her relationship with others and theirs in turn through recognition of the individuals humanity. Ubuntu means that people are people through other people. It also acknowledges both the rights and responsibilities of every citizen in promoting individual and societal well-being.

Ubuntu Hands (Photo: Elliot Haney 2009)

Ubuntu Hands (Photo: Elliot Haney 2009)

Ubuntu also conveys the idea the a person cannot be complete if others do not enjoy full humanity. The spirit of Ubuntu resonates so strongly that if one group within society is denied its humanity, then no individual in that society can fully realize his or her own humanity. The urgency to change this injustice becomes paramount.

We can put the spirit of Ubuntu – respect, human dignity, compassion, and community – to work in our daily lives through our interactions with others, from greeting others as we pass them in hallways or on the street to ensuring that all segments of society are included in social welfare policies so that each person has the means to lead a life of dignity. Ubuntu has the power to help us build an inclusive, respectful, and vibrant community nation and world.

Text taken from City Year’s book of Founding Stories.

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King

Building The Beloved Community

The Beloved Community by Christopher Barret

The Beloved Community by Christopher Barret

Among Dr. Kings most compelling visions is that of a Beloved Community – a community in which people of different backgrounds recognize that we are all interconnected and that our individual well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of others. Dr. King knew that the goal of social change is not tolerance alone, or even the recognition or enforcement of human or civil rights, or an improved economic condition. These are necessary but not sufficient steps in the path to human progress. We cannot rest until we have bridged the divides of prejudice and mistrust that lie within the human head and heart. Invariably, these final, resilient divisions are social and personal. Dr. King reminds us that reconciliation is both a process and a final destination. The road to the Beloved Community is the difficult road of reconciliation among people who have been in conflict and negotiation. The Beloved Community is reconciliation achieved – a profound human connectedness, a transcendent harmony and love among all people.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr.

“Desegregation is only a partial, though, necessary, step toward the ultimate goal which we seek to realise. Desegregation will break down legal barriers, and bring men together physically. But something must happen so as to touch the hearts and souls of men that they will come together, not because the law says it, but because it is natural and right. In other words, our ultimate goal is integration which is genuine intergroup and interpersonal living. Only through nonviolence can this goal be attained, for the aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of the beloved community” MLK – 1968

“I do not think of political power as an end. Neither do I think of economic power as an end. They are ingredients in the objective that we seek in life. And I think to that end or that objective is a truly brotherly society, the creation of the beloved community” MLK – 1966

*Text taken from City Year’s book of Founding Stories