As the the end of summer quickly approaches, you will find most students pulling themselves from their sunny spot at the beach and rushing to department stores for back-to-school clothes and supplies.
Most students in America, that is.
For many communities in South Africa, there exists a much harsher reality.
Due to a long history of apartheid and racial conflict, schoolchildren in South Africa struggle to gather the basic resources necessary to succeed in school.
One community largely impacted by the economic inequalities resulting from racial segregation is Kliptown, a township located just 10 miles southwest of Johannesburg. Kliptown is a place known for its cultural history and the significant role it played in shaping South African government.
Despite its deeply important historical roots, however, Kliptown is still disproportionately impacted by racialized poverty.
Taking notice of this need, and looking to eradicate Kliptown’s destitution, is Kliptown Youth Program (KYP), a nonprofit organization founded in 2007.
KYP prides themselves on their dedication in, “helping members lift themselves out of poverty through education.” The organization is built on a main goal of providing the township with basic necessities such as proper schools, health clinics, electricity and sanitation.
Betty Walter, a senior geology major at UW-Eau Claire from Rochester, Minnesota, has paired up with KYP for her service-learning project.
“The purpose of my project is to raise donations for KYP and use the donations to buy tablets and school supplies, which I will deliver during my South Africa semester abroad,” Betty said.
After hearing about KYP through UW-Eau Claire professors Dr. Brian Mahoney and Dr. Lori Snyder, Betty knew it was a project she had to be part of. Extremely moved by the way her professors spoke of the program, she was excited to join her fellow Blugolds in giving back.
“Brian and Lori spoke passionately of how overwhelming, yet humbling, their journey was to Kliptown. It was an eye-opening experience that challenged their perspectives and brought to light how privileged Americans really are,” Betty commented.
Due to years of segregation, Kliptown has struggled to integrate the black community into predominantly white neighborhoods. As a result, the village has come to be known as a "shack town," where a large majority of the black community does not have equal access to quality housing or education.
Because of this, the money Betty raises for KYP will ultimately provide resources for educational programs aimed at helping schoolchildren break the poverty cycle. The supplies donated by Betty and her fellow volunteers will be sent into classrooms to help with hands-on learning activities, as well as providing sufficient meals for the children.
The impact of Betty’s project isn’t just a one-way street, however. Experiencing firsthand the jarring reality for children in Kliptown has impacted Betty in ways she never dreamed possible.
“I have come to realize how different my narrative is from people who struggle to acquire basic human necessities,” Betty reflected.
She recalls a shocking moment during her study abroad training where she was warned of the water shortages in South Africa. Betty and her fellow students were instructed that, while in South Africa, they cannot shower for more than 2 minutes at a time.
“Never in my Midwestern life did I have to think twice about limiting water,” she said.
Because of moments like this, Betty has come to understand just how privileged her life in America has been. Especially, she says, her education.
“There is power in education,” Betty admitted. “And I hope to use it to benefit the lives of children in Kliptown.”
As of June 28, Betty had raised a total of $1,400 for KYP through service-learning, with even more money to be raised in the coming months.