Global Service Scholar: Jazzmyn Luna
Country: South Africa
My biggest takeaway from my experience as a Global Service Scholar would have to be a new definition of community.
Before going to South Africa, I believed community to be small clusters of people in which one shares distinctive commonalities. For example, I associate myself with very specific communities such as the Hispanic community, the female community, the University of California, Irvine community, etc. However, my time at Sakhulwazi Women’s Hub, and South Africa in general, taught me that community can supersede one’s norms and comfort zones. At Sakhulwazi, I was a part of a community in which I did not fit the common mold of most group members. I could not fully understand the struggles of the women in the Philippi township or Mama Rose’s battle against the lasting effects of apartheid, but, never the less, I was part of the community at Sakhulwazi.
Beyond not being part of the majority of this community’s population, there was a major language barrier between us as the primary language spoken at Sakhulwazi was Xhosa. Even though I was never able to fully overcome this barrier, I was able to work around it; the other greenhouse workers and I were eventually able to communicate with a handful of phases and a lot of specific hand gestures. Despite our limited communication, I was still able to make genuine connections with the people at Sakhulwazi through our common passion for the work being done there. As a whole, this experience has taught me that unity can sometimes come unexpectedly and in many different forms.
Going into the Global Service Scholar program, I already had a feeling that I wanted to work in environmental sustainability, but this experience made this a certainty. Going to South Africa gave me the opportunity to see what relationships between humans and nature is like in an area outside of the United States. This experience reinforced my belief that at least an elemental understanding of the environment is fundamental to the longevity and health of the planet for all of its inhabitants, but my time in South Africa helped me to see that environmental education programs for both the young and old will be a necessary component. While I understand the target of youth specific educational programs, I believe at this stage in the Earth’s environmental health, it is vital that we educate all age groups so that legitimate steps to combat major issues such as global warming and pollution can be made now rather than in a few generations.
In short, my time in South Africa provided me with experiences that encouraged me to dive deeper into my own beliefs and I am confident that this newfound understanding will continue to be explored and utilized well beyond my time as a Global Service Scholar and student.