Story of the Month

August: Finding Hope Through Hardship

A small part of the difficult and tangled history of Strandfontein was revealed to us as we lived at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, a Coloured couple living in a well-appointed bungalow, nestled on a busy suburban street. Coloured is an official racial category in South Africa referring to people whose ancestry began with the intermarriage between couples of different races. At the Roberts home, we were welcomed with delicious Biryani, meat pies, and other delicious food, and our week of endless conversations about soccer, history, and Strandfontein’s struggles and triumphs began. 

Now in no way can you hope to attain a full understanding of a culture through one family’s stories and experiences, yet we learned so much. In conversation and through observing their life, we glimpsed a culture very different than our own. Be it through Mrs. Roberts’ fiercely imposed hospitality, or Mr. Roberts stories of segregation and political history, we were certainly immersed in a community that had been shaped by struggle, unimaginable hardship, and also hope.

Community so strong in fact, that tragedy produced tighter bonds and showcased this community’s graciousness and drive all the more. Weeks before we arrived, a strong community leader passed away – a leader from the Methodist Church who was a key figure in our homestay experience.  The fact that we were welcomed in the midst of this tragic loss showcases the community’s amazing hospitality.

Struggle and tragedy, however, is not the full story. It’s unfair, I think, to only remember stories of heartbreak or political corruption faced by the Coloured community and not remember our host family’s passion for soccer, for family, for close community, and for eclectic music. In hardship and joy, the Coloured community rallied together to create a truly memorable homestay experience.          

 – Sam Gillett (South Africa '15/16)

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