RIT Croatia Class of 2010
International Hospitality and Service Management
A few mornings ago, while reading the daily newspaper, I came across an article: "To be successful, you just need to be happy with your life choices.” This made me think. By reading it I actually realized how happy I am. All my life, I have been trying to improve myself and be content as a person. I have made various decisions, but one in particular had a strong influence on my personality: my journey to South Africa.
After six years of volunteering in various European countries, I decided to take my passion and experience outside Europe. I found an organization for abused women and children in Johannesburg, booked an airplane ticket and moved to South Africa for three months. I went there alone, without big plans and expectations. All I wanted was to help people and give them some of my free time. As Mother Teresa once said "We cannot do great things, only small things with great love” and that was exactly what I was doing.
Three months in Africa flew very quickly. I cannot say it was easy and safe, but it was worth it. The first month was the hardest- I was even thinking of quitting and going back home. But as I was never a quitter, I decided to stay and seize the experience no matter how hard it got. When I reconciled with the fact that I was on my own, my whole experience started to change.
During my African adventure, I worked on a couple of projects: providing food for HIV positive people, feeding and cooking for homeless people, teaching children in schools, taking care of babies and abused women. However, most of the time, I was volunteering in a kindergarten in the town of Diepsloot, where I was the only volunteer in the whole village. From the beginning, I was very well accepted and I built strong relationship with all the children. The kindergarten had 90 children and 4 teachers. They did not speak English at all, but that was not a problem for us- we all laughed in the same language. Before I came to South Africa, I thought it would be hard for me to adjust to the hygienic situation, but after a while I overcame this. We did not have plates, glasses or cutlery, so we ate with our hands. Children would sit around me on the floor and I was hand feeding every child- one by one. There were days when we only had bread and water for breakfast. We had to drink water in a group; all together sharing one big glass. During my last week in Diepsloot, we did not have water at all. Even though life in Africa is difficult, we were all very happy and I woke up with a smile every morning.
My parents raised me to love and appreciate life, but I have to admit that after my African experience I started seeing things in a completely different way. I am much more aware of the value of life. Sometimes, we all forget how happy we are. We do not appreciate enough the fact that we have parents who are taking care of us, our education, beds with sheets and blankets, diverse and healthy food, fresh water and clean toilets, clothes, toys and safe streets. Even though we are aware of problems that people around the world are facing, we somehow think it cannot happen to us. Even I thought that way and was not bothered that much with the value of life. Until I lived through it. Being part of this, made me even more grateful for what I have at home.
RIT Croatia taught me how teamwork allows common people to attain uncommon results. We should never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. As Dolores Huerta once said "Giving kids clothes and food is one thing, but it is much more important to teach them that other people besides themselves are important, and that the best thing they can do with their lives is to use them in the service of other people”. Finally- maybe I will not save the world. Maybe I will not change it. But, I believe that life is worth living so I am trying my best. That makes me happy. And that makes me successful.