Following her lead

Meagan visits a South African school during her mission this past August.

by Meagan Bronstein

Acharai. After me. After us.

This is the motto which every Acharai participant embodied when we chose to partake in the journey through South Africa and Israel during the summer of 2012.

Are we all human rights activists, dedicating our lives to the worldwide relief effort with individual plans for spreading world peace? Not quite. For the most part, we are simply young people lucky enough to be born in a country that allows the freedom to work, to study and to participate in outreach programs such as this, in hopes of sharing what we have, while being humbled by what others do not.

In her footsteps

For some, an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the afflicted was reason enough to join the program. For others, the chance to explore the world was too great an offer to ignore. As for me, it was the personal obligation I felt to follow in the humanitarian footsteps of my late grandmother. The opportunity came in the form of the Acharai program and I leapt at the idea of fulfilling her life long battle against the cruelties of the world and its children. We knew it would not be easy, and that the objective of the trip was not to save the world, but at the very least try to make a difference in the lives of those we encounter along the way. What we did not expect however, was just how great a difference those people would make in our lives as well.

A dose of reality – life in South Africa

From the moment our feet touched the ground in South Africa, we were thrown into the world we had only seen through televised charity programs. A world of immense poverty, disease and a lack of just about everything our Western society would consider necessary to live a nourishing life. Perhaps the greatest disturbance of all was the complete and utter independence of children, toddlers and even babies, who, more often than not, are left to fend for themselves in a society that would eat them alive at the slightest sign of weakness.

Love trumps sadness

However, all the television, books, stories and photographs could not prepare us for a reality we had never expected; the pure happiness that surrounded the people, especially children, of South Africa. Where we expected tears and remorse, we encountered laughter and dancing. Instead of complaints and anguish, we saw appreciation and love. Despite the fact that we, as a group, had not solved all their problems, just knowing someone, somewhere out there in the world was there for them, brought something to their day that they will not soon forget. Something tells me, neither will we.

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