The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), well known for its research into violence and clinical and community intervention work, has in recent years become a learning organization. Moving towards developing our learnings and the learnings of others. This was evident at an event we had yesterday: a graduation ceremony for interpreters that provide interpretation to the clinical team in their therapeutic work with clients who speak French, Swahili, Kinyaruwandi, Lingala, Amaric and Somali. The event followed the interpreters completing an introductory course in interpreting skills at the WITS Language school.
I recall the beginning of this journey, as interpreters were filled with feelings of anxiety and concern. ‘im too old to go back to school’, ‘I don’t know if I can do this’, ‘if I fail I have to pay back the money, where will I get this money?’. Concerns around time commitments and being able to pass were noted.
This may seem like normal concerns and anxieties before one embarks on an academic venture, but what you need to understand is this is no ordinary group of individuals. These are individuals that come from war torn countries and have been able to survive in an environment often known for its xenophobic sentiments. They face many challenges as they navigate personal, family and communal life on a daily basis. So embarking on this journey was no easy task. Our Executive Director (Nomfundo Mogapi) captured the perseverance of their human spirit best by acknowledging their endurance in their home country, coming to South Africa which has given them good and bad experiences and making a life despite the bad experiences. Contributing to a country which has been unwelcoming at times and being a part of the change they want to see in the world and in South Africa.
As I watched them go through the course and there life journey, I marveled at their spirit. Their willingness and ability to engage with the content and be present and still do life. It made me reflect on my own resistance to re-entering the academic realm or creating change in my status quo, and yes I feel-‘l im too old’, ‘I got a lot on my plate’ (kids, family responsibilities, bills), ‘how will I manage to study and work at the same time’ and ‘I don’t know if I can do this now’. And then I think about these women and men, whom have been dealt a bad hand, not of their own choice and continue to persevere, continue to find meaning in life, continue to seize opportunities and work towards a better future. Continue to give life their all and all my reasons seem mundane. And so these words come to mind: The power of the human spirit prevails, it is self- doubt that keeps us stagnant.
Written by: Sumaiya Mohamed