Community, Culture, and Caring Individuals

Today’s Agenda:

  • Teaching Africa class with Germantown Friends School (PA)
  • Meeting Community Partner, ASAP (After School Art Program)
  • BUILD Sessions

In the morning, we had an intensive “Teaching Africa” session with the Germantown Friends School (GFS). We focused mainly on the theory of The Other and how it manifests in both South Africa and the US, through analyzing photographs.

In groups of 4-5, we broke down excerpts from an essay “Theorizing the ‘Other’” to better understand how humans historically construct binary us-them paradigms, and how “othering” inform the conception of “self.” We moved on to big group discussions in which we analyzed “othering” captured in photos, and drew connections between segregation in South Africa and the US (for instance, Apartheid and red-lining). We then dived into the ethics of “othering,” contemplating the ten qualities that “makes humans human” and their absence in “othering.”

This discussion furthered our knowledge about the history of South Africa from the Apartheid Museum a few days ago and informed us of the power dynamics and underlying causes beneath historical events. Learning about the advocacy and initiative of South African youth was deeply empowering as well. With more awe and respect for the change makers in South Africa, we set out for the afternoon’s visit to one of Soweto’s local change leader, After School Art Program (ASAP).

One of the photos we discussed in our Teaching Africa class.

After talking with the initiator, Nthabiseng, we learned that ASAP is a platform for youth idleness and creative art ideas, from photography to DJ’ing. 

Nthabiseng’s life experience is inspirational. She started as a toilet artist. Who knew! One day during her work, she met a girl drinking with the realization that the girl was still in school. After their talk about the girl’s passion and future career plans, the girl invited her to come to her school and help with the after school programs. In this way, she created After School Art Program (ASAP) aiming to reduce drug use, teenager pregnancy and many other existing problems in Soweto. 

Nthaibiseng also shared ASAP’s income source. A non-profit organization, ASAP acquires its funding mostly from donations, commissions (like wall paint), as well as sales of home-made art products like notebooks, T-shirts and jewelry. 

When asked about the greatest challenges she faced, Nthabiseng pointed out the difficulty to find good spaces for ASAP: the organization had to move frequently, from schools to people’s houses and many other locations. Despite the hardships, Nthabiseng is determined to make ASAP better. Even though they still have to share the current house with another group, ASAP had started to collaborate with a nearby NGO and expand ASAP to children headed families in the NGO. 

Group photo with ASAP

Besides the many teenagers in the neighborhood, the facilitators at ASAP also felt like the organization had helped much in their personal growths. They felt lucky that to find a space to explore their identity and self-worth and to showcase their skills to broader audience. They also cherish the opportunity to collaborate with other like-minded people and gain confidence. 

Before leaving, Nthabiseng advised us to believe in the purpose and what people can achieve throughout the BUILD process, a piece of wisdom we carried with us into our BUILD session tonight.

After dinner, we continued to BUILD! After reviewing the big-picture world problems as well as the relevant community problems we identified yesterday, we picked three that we were most passionate about to share with the group. We then formed groups of two or three based on our interest. The grouping/problem are as followings:

Scout, Ali & Julia | Toxic judgement from social media

Mel & Maria | Mental health issues

Angela & Leela | Respect (respect for ground staff; respect for names of people from different backgrounds)

Amy, Julia & Susan | Disposable Utensils and Cups on campus

We as a class would focus on solving these problems within the Porter’s community first.

To further clear up our problem identification, we worked on constructing a temporary “need statement,” in the format of:

(WHO) needs (WHAT) because (SO THAT) in order to (WHY). An example from my (Amy’s) group would be:

Miss Porter’s needs an effective alternative to disposable utensils and cups because of our big consumption of these products, in order to reduce waste, relieve financial burden, and raise environmental awareness.

Group photo

Tomorrow, we would continue to understand our problem more through investigations in both the MPS and ALA community. We all look forward to seeing wonderful solutions that we would have by next Tuesday! 🙂 For now, sweet dreams!

— Amy & Susan

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