Ted Guerrero is a student at Loyola Marymount University who was selected from over 1,500 students for the Chegg for Good and ONE internship. Ted just returned from the internship trip to South Africa and Zambia.
I set off on a mission alongside seven other students with Chegg for Good and ONE to South Africa and Zambia on a listening and learning tour with the goal of understanding how African people and African programs are propelling Africa in a direction that leaves poverty and preventable disease in the dust.
African problems have African solutions, and we were there to listen to see how we can advocate on behalf of those solutions. We also learned the importance of US programs and organizations like PEPFAR and the CDC, which are providing vital assistance. In the hopes that you will be able to see through my eyes and hear through my ears, these are the top 5 things that I learned while in Africa:
1. The importance of using your voice.
At every site we visited, at least one African expressed their gratitude for the work that ONE is doing. While at the Helen Joseph Hospital in the Themba Lethu Clinic, we spoke with HIV-positive patients. From this experience, I learned that I do not need to be in a position of power to effect a change. By merely using my voice and sharing stories, I can gain support and facilitate change.
2. African programs are extremely successful and many are funded with US assistance
The Right to Care program at the Helen Joseph Hospital is funded by USAID and PEPFAR and aims to provide free medical services to prevent, manage and treat HIV. The accounts of the HIV-positive patients we spoke to were incredibly touching and they spoke of the healthy lives they were able to lead due to free access to ARVs and medical care, all made possible by US funding. The Winnie Mandela Clinic for Male Sexual Health provides counseling to HIV-positive patients and performs free circumcisions, which can reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV by 60 percent. It is impossible to imagine these programs without funding. I now know that government support for programs like PEPFAR is critical in saving millions of lives in Africa.
3. “See, Do, Get:” What you see is what you do, and what you do is what you get.
In a visit to Life College, a program that teaches disadvantaged youth leadership skills, two 16-year-old girls taught me about the concept of “See, Do, Get,” which means “What you see is what you do, and what you do is what you get.” Their enthusiasm and drive was a testament to the huge potential of Africa’s youth. The leaders of developed nations must recognize the importance of foreign assistance programs that can help African youth to break the cycle of poverty and preventable disease. I learned that through exhaustive efforts, the US can act as a positive role model not only for Africa but for other developed nations who are in a position to lend a hand.
4. There is true strength in numbers.
No matter what township we visited in South Africa and Zambia or what poor person we saw, nobody was ever alone. There is something to be said about the unification of Africans in the fight against poverty and preventable disease. The most powerful moment for me during the trip occurred during our visit to the Chikumbuso Center, where widowed women make jewelry and handbags out of plastic bags and use their earnings for food and education for their children. To show their gratitude for our purchases, the women sang and danced their hearts out. I was honored and humbled to share a moment with these inspiring women who have so little yet still manage to have faith and joy in their lives. Let us join them. We do not have to suffer to realize the true strength in numbers. Why not realize this strength in numbers in the fight against poverty and preventable disease?
5. No matter what the circumstances, there will always be change agents.
The world isn’t perfect. There will always be room for change and people facilitating positive movements for the betterment of society. The people that we met in Africa fighting poverty and preventable disease are doing their part to make the world a better place and inspiring others in the process. We all need to examine our lives and ask ourselves, “What have we done to give back?” It is our duty as global citizens.