Cat Boland

Child Life Intern
Appalachian State University
14 December 2010

How do you begin to describe an experience that has changed your life forever? To say that my experience in Cape Town was “life changing” doesn’t really even begin to scrape the surface. There are simply no words to describe the beauty of the city of Cape Town or the beauty and love that seeps through every wall of the Red Cross Hospital. I have never in my life worked with such a committed team of people as the faculty, volunteers and Child Life Specialists I had the opportunity to work with during my time at the Red Cross. The never ending dedication to advocacy and the care of the child as a whole was inspiring to say the very least. These women will continue to shape my life both professionally and personally long after my departure from Cape Town.

Often in my life I have found that the days seem to march by so quickly without my notice or reverence to the date or time or day of the week that they are gone long before we have the chance to stop to say hello. Looking back on my time in Cape Town I wonder what happened to the last three months, how did they disappear so quickly? The weeks on my calendar seemed to fly by so fast that I could never seem to keep up! Yet each day brought something new into my life; be it a new challenge, a new lesson, a new friend, or a new adventure, my life was constantly filled with moments that taught me more about myself and my field of study than I could have ever imagined.

I cannot even begin to attempt to regurgitate all of the lessons I have learned in the last few months here and now…. but one goal I work towards daily is to slow down more often, to take a deep breath in and remember what a blessing each day truly is. Today, I force myself to pause and take a long deep breath…remembering the moment, remembering the day, remembering the date. During my time at the hospital I was reminded on a daily basis to pause more often in my life and give thanks. I try to remember to take the time to breathe in the beauty of each day no matter where I might find myself, be it South Africa or the US.

During my time in Cape Town I was given the opportunity to attend a bereavement conference where I had the opportunity to listen to Durban born local poet Malika Ndlova perform one of her pieces. Every word she spoke held such strength and gravity that I could almost see it dripping out of her mouth, slowly falling down and out into the space around her like water flowing from a faucet. The poem began with a description of the human form that held such strength and power for me: we are light beings.  Malika slapped her chest, her legs, her head, and her arms and stated, “We are so much more than this… this body, this life, is simply a veil… we are born to bring light… we are light beings, portals of love, makers of peace, creators of beauty…”

Every day at the hospital was filled with new challenges and new struggles for me, some days were harder than I could have ever imagined. The first day I stepped into the treatment room on the Burns Ward was one of those days but within minutes the children on the ward changed everything. Even the hardest of days were often coupled with joy and light in some way even if it was just taking a moment aside to hold and sing to a child. It is in those moments that I was reminded of the power we have to make a difference (in whatever we do) in just one moment, in just one hour, in just one day. The children that I had the opportunity to work with at the Red Cross have and will continue to be little portals of love in my life. They brought so much light and beauty into my life that I am forever grateful to each and every one of them.

My time at the Red Cross was an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. More than anything, working at the Red Cross confirmed for me that the path I have chosen for myself is without a doubt the right one. My life in Cape Town can be summed up with one word, love. Love for the people, love for the place. The country of South Africa and the city of Cape Town are so alive that it is impossible not to find something to do be it hiking or simply sitting on the roof of Perspectives watching the sunset with good friends.  All I can say in the end is thank you to everyone that I had the opportunity to spend the last three months of my life with; you have made my life richer in more ways than you can ever imagine. See you next time Cape Town!

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