Letter From the Project Coordinators:

       Ubuntu is a traditional  African concept describing the essence of being human. It is the idea that our humanity is connected and that people are only truly people through others. Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes  a person with  ubuntu to be  “open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed."  Martin Luther King Jr., in the context of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, elaborates on this notion of ubuntu stating “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
            The three of us recently spent 5 ½ months in South Africa learning first hand the significance of ubuntu in our daily lives, and how peace lies within its meaning. During our stay in South Africa, we were able to connect with people on the most intimate of levels who grew up in a different part of the world and within a culture very different from our own. It was through these people that we became witnesses to the profound love and forgiveness in their hearts as they progress towards a peaceful coexistence in a time closely following the legacy of apartheid in which their humanity was denied.
           Each of us had the opportunity to work in various townships where our lives were forever changed by the youth of South Africa. Our placements were Lavender Hill, Masiphumelele, and Wallacedene and although our experiences were different our time with the youth revealed a reality of poverty, hunger, abuse, and divisions which the youth are faced with everyday. Despite these hardships they inspired us with their burning love for one another and a desire for a peaceful community. During our time there it was evident the ways in which these young people were so innately similar to children from inner city Milwaukee, sharing many of the same realities of poverty and violence and the same aspirations of a safe community and childhood.
           The youth of South Africa expressed a great desire for change and for a connection with children from the outside who they do not fully understand. At the same time one of us was receiving emails from the children at the NeuLife center in Milwaukee expressing their interest in connecting with the children in South Africa. The children began writing letters to a school in the United States from Cape Town, asking her everyday for more ways and opportunities to connect with the world.
            This is the inspiration of the Youth Cultural Connection Project. The project is designed to connect the youth living in the racially divided townships of South Africa with one another and with youth in the United States. We believe the project will provide an outlet for the children to use their experiences and cultures in a creative and educational way that will engage them in a peaceful exchange with other children, recognizing the significance of the humanity which they share, the ubuntu not only amongst each other but throughout the world.

Digital Story: The Humanity of South Africa

Youth Cultural connection project, Cape Town South Africa