As one of the two international trips Middlesex offered over Spring Break, five students and three accompanying faculty members traveled over 7,000 miles from Concord to Cape Town, South Africa.
Amy Gleason, Director of Community Service, Head of Higginson House, and Math teacher, has brought groups to Cape Town, South Africa many times since her first trip there in 2006. Over the years, Mrs. Gleason has generously shared with the other Middlesex visitors the strong relationships she has built with many wonderful local Capetonians. One especially notable relationship she has facilitated is that between Middlesex students and the 15 children and 5 adults that comprise the Linawo Children's Home in Cape Town, a unique orphanage that raises children from a variety of backgrounds and ages as a family. Previous Middlesex Capetown service trips have assisted in a variety of building and maintenance projects with the Linawo Home, and this year, the service group worked hand-in-hand with the Linawo children to weed, build, and plant several vegetable and flower beds around their home. In addition to these hands-on projects, the Middlesex students got to share and learn with the Linawo children through a variety of experiences, including a trip to the beach, a magic show and class at the Academy of Magic, and a fun-filled half-day science fair, where the students compared experiments and wondered together at classic simple science projects like carbon-dioxide reactions from baking soda and vinegar. Middlesex was also able to donate over $1,o00 raised by the student Community Service Officers to the Linawo Education Fund.
In addition to forming bonds with their new international friends, the Middlesex group took every opportunity to fully experience Capetown's natural beauty and rich history. A trip to Robben Island featured a tour of Nelson Mandela's cell and quarters during his political imprisonment, while a sea kayaking adventure provided lots of laughter and some up-close encounters with wild seals and African penguins. A hike up Table Mountain tested the group's physical endurance, but was well worth the trip for the 360-degree views of the South African coastline.
Cooking lessons with a local Middle Eastern chef in the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, dinner hosted by a local family, and a few days of service and outreach in Capetown's neighboring townships of Khayelitsha and Gugulethu provided a unique and profound platform for cultural immersion and exposure to new international cuisines, languages, and customs. Students left the trip reflecting on the depth and breadth of their experience, marveling how they had managed to pack such a broad variety of activities into one week on the African continent. Like many other efforts at Middlesex to encourage students to consider themselves as members of a larger global context, the South Africa service trip provided a valuable window into a foreign culture and city, and created room for invaluable self-examination and reflection in each of the group members.