Day 1 – by Steve Aldrich of Adobe 11 April 2018
Today has been a long day, not just because we are jet-lagged, weary travelers in a distant land, but also because our 12-person team’s hearts and minds are full as we reach completion of our first full day immersed in our Team4Tech project here in Kayamandi, a township located in South Africa’s Western Cape region.
Our team is composed of service-minded professionals from two leading tech companies in the heart of Silicon Valley, Adobe and Cadence. We have different backgrounds and skillsets but a common goal of using technology as a multiplier for educators and their students.
After a mostly successful travel schedule, we all grouped for lunch at a venue near our volunteer sites, Vision Afrika Primary and Makupula Secondary School. Local delicacies and warm greetings awaited us at the noon hour. Our host is a standout in the community, Nocawe Piedt, an entrepreneur and the glue of a multi-generational household. We’re treated to an authentic menu in a local, Xhosa-tongued home. As we then sipped our coffees to regain mental and physical wherewithal after a filling meal, our local champions from the Greater Stellenbosch Development Trust shared insights around areas of opportunity within the regional in the academic space. Incidentally, as we’re starting our work, we watch the TV in the background broadcast a memorial for the recently departed “Mama Winnie” Mandela. Perhaps an omen for us to do our best to support more of her people.
Vision Afrika is one of the two schools we visit that we’ll be dedicating resources to throughout this service project. It’s a pre- and primary school filled with just over one hundred adorable students with sweet, impassioned teachers to boot. As we tour the school and learn of their current processes for teaching and administering, additional lightbulbs begin to turn on in the heads of the volunteer team that’ll be supporting their growth.
Later in the afternoon, we tour Makupula Secondary School, which is a business-focused high school located just up the road from Vision Afrika in Kayamandi. Upon arrival, we’re greeted by the welcoming principal and staff who we’ve been coming to know through our preparation efforts over the last several weeks. We’re then treated to a fantastic singing and dance performance from the school’s own choir who leave us and the hundreds of onlooking students and staff cheering and applauding their craft. We then introduce ourselves to the student body, which was exciting given the sheer number of people there who we’ll have the opportunity to impact.
Later in the day as the sun continues to shine, we tour the township homes and businesses surrounding the schools we’ll be working in. It’s an active community filled with people carrying on with their lives albeit some of the structures and ways of life are quite different from most of ours.
As we settle back at our apartments and the sun begins to set on our first full day, our Team4Tech leaders walk us through a series of exercises that offer us the chance to get to know our fellow volunteers better and which continue to promote the key tenets of this project, including a growth mindset and openness to ideas and people. We have fun with this as the exercises and the stories coming from them are colored with personal detail as we increasingly open ourselves to the ones we’ll be doing life with over the next two weeks. Faces are smiling across the room of our common area.
A silent consensus fills the room: it was a good first day together that we just had. We realize our team is moving from colleagues to friends. We too realize that the rigor of the day is much and that it’s now time to wind down with dinner and then rest.