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Syracuse University Office of Program Development plans historic trip to South Africa with alumni
Syracuse University Office of Program Development plans historic trip to South Africa with alumniAugust 17, 2007Scott McDowellsemcdowe@syr.edu
“The experience of a lifetime,” is how Larry Martin, associate vice president of Syracuse University’s Office of Program Development, describes the upcoming Coming Back Together (CBT) trip being organized by his office. Martin will travel with 130 SU alumni and their guests to explore South Africa from Aug. 21-30.
“The opportunity to meet the people in a new South Africa is invaluable,” says Martin. “We learn about them through television and the media, and I think to see the changes for ourselves — talking face to face, talking to our brothers and sisters — will be remarkable.”
The group’s upcoming 10-day tour reflects Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s commitment to global engagement through Scholarship in Action. While in South Africa, the group will be visiting the local Kalksteenfontein Primary School in Cape Town — a K-7 grade school that is in dire need, according to Martin. Students at the Kalksteenfontein Primary School attend classes in a building in desperate need of repair where they face gang crime and a lack of food; the government only provides children in grades K-3 with food. To battle these conditions, the visiting group is bringing various school supplies and will present a substantial check to the school to go toward much needed aid. “We want to go there and do some good and hopefully we can create a relationship and a continuing partnership,” says Martin.
In addition to the more serious goals of the visit, the group will host three receptions to connect with SU alumni who reside in South Africa, as well as the other citizens of this multiethnic, multiracial country: one in Johannesburg, another in Durban and a final reception in Cape Town. During the visit the group will take in a cultural show, visit the popular Bruma Flea Market, travel to a game reserve and visit the Cape of Good Hope.
A primary focus of the Office of Program Development has always been the advancement of projects and programs that further the University’s interests among African American and Latino alumni. Since its inception, the office has been responsive to the concerns and needs of alumni and currently enrolled students. Since the first CBT reunion, held on campus in 1983, the event became an integral part of the department’s programming.
After a second successful CBT event, the office began planning bigger trips to places such as Cancun, Mexico, and Aruba, as well as cruises in the Caribbean. This inaugural trip to South Africa is also the first to a different continent, and an inevitable progression for CBT. “Our alumni are excited about our upcoming South Africa trip. For years they have expressed a strong desire to travel to the African mainland,” says Martin. “Aside from the cities, we will visit places where human beings have no electrical power, no running water and are living in shacks. Yet, despite the conditions, there is such hope, such dignity. It’s powerful to see.”
The struggles in South Africa have mirrored historical racial relations in the United States. As a result, the defeat of apartheid and establishment of a democracy with a constitution that protects all its citizens deeply resonates with African Americans. “Despite the many social problems confronting the country, the peaceful coexistence of its various ethnic and racial groups, as well as religious groups, provides hope that a diverse, democratic society is possible,” says Martin.
For more information on the receptions or the school visit, call Larry Martin at 315-443-4556, or 315-317-4764.