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Building Peace in South Africa
Bob and Alice Evans are the founding directors of the Plowshares Institute, an international NGO that works closely with Archbishop Desmund Tutu and specializes in international peace and justice.
Recently, the Evanses joined our shipboard community to offer a conflict resolution and peace-building workshop to a group of 22 students, staff and faculty members.
The ten-day course emphasized the importance of mediation and conflict-resolution, using South Africa and their struggle to end apartheid as an example, and included six days of class while at sea and four days of immersion while in South Africa.
“All around the world, the leadership is really flowing to young people,” said Bob Evans. “Since Semester at Sea brings together students from a variety of different nations for an intensive education on widening their global perspective, it seemed natural for us to join on the pilot project on what it would mean to do this section of the voyage in a particular learning context.”
While in-port, the students were immersed with peace building activities. The first day the students spent time in the township of Guguletu, where they visited a building that was the gathering site of anti-apartheid work, and a healing center for individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
“I genuinely feel like I gained a better sense of self,” said SAS student Robert Bate, a sociology student from Howard University. “I was previously unsure of my career aspirations and through this I have learned that moral values can drive them. We got a better understanding of South Africa by going directly into the heart of the townships, learning about and hearing the moving stories of the individuals within the community and how they are trying to improve the quality of life everyday.”
The students were also taken to the Parliament building, where the deputy speaker opened dialogue about the democratic movement in South Africa.
In addition to a visit to the District Six Museum, the students also had the opportunity to meet Mary Burton, one of the key leaders of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, of which Archbishop Desmund Tutu is an active participant.
“It gives people in our class an opportunity to encounter South Africans at very different levels and in key places having to do with townships, governance, and truth channels,” said Bob Evans.
Several students said that taking the class has given them greater insight into future career objectives, and has helped them to gain skills that will benefit their home communities.
“I felt it was a valuable opportunity to not only gain skills in mediation and conflict resolution that I could use back in my home community, but also get a more personal insight into South Africa through exposure to people directly involved,” said Andrea Lim, an economics student from Reed College. “It gave us a deep and well rounded understanding of South Africa as we got a balanced idea of the work being done towards community development at the grassroots level and the governmental level, after walking through the townships and meeting the people who live in them.
For Bob and Alice Evans, the chance to interact with tomorrow’s generation of adults was rewarding in many different ways.
“It has been absolutely terrific to meet with these young people and the staff,” said Alice Evans. “The exciting thing for me, is that these young people are not only seeking jobs, but they are looking for meaningful professions. They’re all wanting to help the world. That is very exciting.”