Student Profiles

Kali Swindell

Psychology, Class of 2018

Study Abroad

The Power of Love

Love is a daily theme at Imbasa Public Primary School, a K-8 school located at the corner of Nyanga and Crossroads in the Cape Town area of South Africa. “Good Morning teachers, how are you today?” Forty-two expectant faces look up at me and my fifty-something year old mentor, who is gripping my arm in encouragement. After I respond with the usual, “I’m well, how are you?” I receive a communal, “We are fine, thank you. One, two, three, Love.”

I never could have imagined that my dream to study abroad would have become a reality thanks to your support through the Santa Clara Fund, nor did I expect to gain such powerful lessons and inspiring memories as the moments I spent teaching beside Mama Zana in her fifth grade class.

One, two, three, Love. This is the motto of the life by Mama Zana, representing the compassion she shares with her students—as many of them are lacking this basic human need. She is a woman of strength and compassion, coming from the Cape Township area surrounding Cape Town, South Africa. Though she is technically a teacher of just one fifth grade class, she goes above and beyond what a regular teacher from any part of the world would be expected to do.

On an average day at Imbasa, one can see this determined woman wearing a cheerful flowered-dress moving up and down the stairs a countless number of times, always pulling herself up the railing for support, but never uttering a complaint. It is impossible to put into words her role for the children and fellow staff at this school.  She works with the social workers to make sure students from all grades have a decent home life, she facilitates weekly meetings with the staff before and after school, and she discusses funding and appropriate curriculum with the government. As if that wasn’t enough, she frequently checks in with the two other student teachers and me to confirm our comfort and enjoyment while working. I have seen her do all of this and more in a single working day.

“Mama Zana teaches us how to be alive,” one well-spoken student exclaimed. Yeah, she teaches me the same, I thought, as I smiled. Mama Zana has taught me that we’re all in this together. Dream big. And then act on it right now—because the chalkboard says my tomorrow starts today.

When I returned home to Santa Clara University, I brought Mama Zana’s lessons with me. I have a deeper understanding of both compassion and patience, especially for individuals from backgrounds different than my own. I notice these traits emerging especially in my community-based learning experiences here in San Jose—at Julian Street Inn in San Jose and the Santa Clara Senior Center. I thank you for your support through the Santa Clara Fund, which helps students like me to take hold of opportunities such as Study Abroad at Santa Clara University. 

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