Our flight from Casablanca to Cape Town was eventful. We encountered an Air Morocco ticket agent who didn’t want to allow Frances to carry on her small suitcase containing her laptop, professional camera and lenses. This was the first of a few challenges with carryon baggage weight restrictions. It seems as if each airline we flew in Africa and Asia had different regulations for both carry on and checked baggage. Fortunately, we were able to transfer some of the equipment from Frances’s bag into my bag and were able to board the plane from Casablanca to Doha, Qatar where we needed to transfer from the Air Morocco flight to Qatar airlines. We arrived very late at night for 3-4 hours in transit. The Doha airport is amazing! It is a destination in itself. Never had we experienced a more luxurious airport. Qatar Air also lived up to its reputation as one of the best airlines in the world. It was a comfortable flight from Doha to Cape Town.
My 15th visit to Cape Town had both Frances and me volunteering for 5 days at the Amy Foundation. Milton Academy and I are incredibly fortunate to be connected with this non-profit organization since 2001 when it was called the Amy Biehl Foundation. Amy Biehl was a white 26 year old American Fulbright scholar who spent 9 months in Cape Town in 1993 researching gender issues with the intent of influencing South Africa’s new Constitution. Tragically she was murdered the day she was supposed to return home by a group of black township youth who recently had had their friends murdered by police during freedom rallies. 4 young men were sentenced to 18 year prison terms. As part of South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” hearings, Amy’s parents Peter and Linda Biehl traveled to Cape Town and requested amnesty for the four young men who were in prison for Amy’s death. They were granted amnesty and the parents along with two of these young men established the Amy Biehl Foundation to weave a barrier against violence through the Arts and Athletics. Both Ntobeko Peni and Easy Nofemela continue to have significant roles in the Foundation. Ntobeko and Linda Biehl spent a week at our house during their Milton Academy residency and we can attest to the genuine bond between them. This is an inspiring story of reconciliation and forgiveness and we are honored to continue to be associated with the Foundation. By their accounting, Milton Academy has delivered over $65,000 worth of donated materials to the Foundation.
We stayed on the 2nd floor of the Amy Foundation headquarters in dormitory-like quarters with several other student volunteers. Cape Town was facing a severe water shortage and conservation was stressed. It wasn’t a problem during a few days of our stay since the low water pressure wouldn’t allow any water to reach the second floor. We were able to shower on the first floor and drank bottled water. Frances and I have a much greater awareness of how much we take for granted and how precious our water is.
My volunteering consisted of planning and reviewing the Foundation’s Art Curriculum and goals. I also meet with the entire Arts staff in a powerful session where each shared their story of how and why they became artists and teachers. The highlight was our daily after school visit to a township school where I worked with a Brass group and a Marimba group. Though they meet daily, they are not able to practice at home and their instrumental instruction is limited. I was able to teach them three songs by ear and we performed in an after-school concert towards the end of the week for the students who were taking choral, visual arts and dance classes. Here is a link to the videos.
Frances was active taking photographs of the activities and staff members. She made a major impact on several adults who were in training and continues to be in touch with some of these apprentices.
It was wonderful to spend time with old friends like Kevin Chaplin, the Amy Foundation director, who could not have been more gracious and generous with his time. All the staff at the Foundation were also most welcoming. We spent time with a new friend, Iona Scholtz, who took us out for a delicious dinner and spent some time in the Amy Foundation townships with us. Our dear friend Wendy Leppard, who lives in Jo’burg, met us in Cape Town and we were able to spend quality time with her in Cape Town and Durban. We felt very fortunate to be embraced in the warmth of these special friends.