Hope remains a distant dream for a countless number of people and communities around the world. Many things we take for granted every day have the potential to change other lives for the better.
This was the topic of this year’s Human Rights Week Common Hour. Sponsored by the Central Pennsylvania Consortium (CPC), The Human Rights Initiative (THRI), the Alice Drum Women’s Center, the Ware Institute for Civic Engagement, the Office of the Chaplain, the Women’s and Men’s Soccer Teams, the International Women’s Outreach Committee (IWOC), and Women’s and Gender Studies, the presentation went beyond raising awareness and support, showing how finding a common ground can turn distant dreams into reality.
Alumni Ryan McGonigle ’08, post-graduate fellow for Educational Outreach at the College, was the first speaker.
“We don’t do things sitting down, so let’s have everyone stand up, and introduce yourselves to two people you haven’t met,” he said.
By creating familiarity among the audience members, McGonigle demonstrated the first steps to building a community, and the first steps he and his team took towards connecting the people of Khayelitsha, South Africa.
In 2007, Dan Wagner, the F&M men’s soccer coach, came up with an idea. He saw his team as a family, and believed they should extend this camaraderie beyond the F&M Community and travel abroad. This idea led the team to travel to South Africa on a community service trip.
On the last day of the 2007 preseason, Chris Campbell ’08, F&M student, soccer player, and cherished friend, passed away.
“We took that tragedy and built a legacy to remember Chris, but also to honor him in how we do it,” McGonigle said. This is when a community service trip became the Chris Campbell Center.
McGonigle went on to share his early experiences in Khayelitsha, and how he really did not know where they would take him and the group. This led them to ask the community what they thought.
“We asked them, ‘What do you want to do?’ and they said, ‘Well, we love soccer,’” McGonigle said. This input led to construction of the Chris Campbell Memorial Field.
“Instead of letting them get into trouble on the streets, why not create a safe space where kids and adults can come in and just play soccer?” McGonigle asked. This simple idea became a reality and much more. After the construction of the soccer field in Khayelitsha, the community began using soccer as a common ground to discuss issues and concerns, strengthening the community extensively.
At this point in the presentation, McGonigle introduced the guest speaker. Noluvuyo Nkazi Dudumashe, now the assistant program coordinator and life-skills facilitator for AMANDLA EduFootball, shared her inspirational life story with riveting passion.
She described her struggles growing up as a woman in Khayelitsha. Along with being raised in a fatherless household just trying to get by, one of Nkazi’s utmost difficulties was lack of engagement. Before the field was built, the people of Khayelitsha were very separated from each other, leaving many to live uninteresting, isolated lives.
“All people did is sit around and do nothing,” Nkazi said. The emotional impact of reliving this isolation became clear when she needed a few moments to regain her composure. To see a woman of such strength and courage haunted by memories of the past was powerful beyond words.
Thankfully, Nkazi’s suffering did not go unnoticed. Thanks to McGonigle and his team of volunteers, the Chris Campbell Memorial Field became the hope for Nkazi and the people of Khayelitsha.
“In 2010 something happened,” Nkazi said. “I was now getting out and doing things and not doing nothing.” After collecting her admirable courage once more she said, “Now there is a place where you do not have to look behind yourself to see if you are safe.”
Nkazi spoke of how strangers at the field became friends. Important issues were finally being discussed, and the community was finally engaged in something productive. The field also presented her with the opportunity to coach the newly formed soccer team in a mixed-culture tournament in Germany. This gave her the opportunity to be a leader and role model, something she had never imagined.
In the closing remarks, Nkazi stressed how the support from the F&M students and community truly makes a difference.
“It is hard to ask for help af- ter what has already been done,” she said. “To be here today, it is an honor. When they first told me, I thought they were joking. To be speaking here in front of a crowd of white people, I could have never imagined.”
After a much deserved, standing applause, F&M’s Rebecca Green ’14, who volunteered for ONE Goal and helped launch 100 Goals for Peace this summer, and Meaghan Mancini ’10, a student at Teachers College, Columbia University, shared their experiences abroad in Africa, and ways current students can get involved.
Green described her initial thoughts about studying abroad as a dream that quickly became a reality. She said the students there taught her, which is something she didn’t expect. Both final speakers stressed how rewarding their experiences were, emphasizing how there’s a way for everyone to pitch in on many levels.
Common Hour was followed by a question-and-answer session and a reception attended by each speaker. Although words on a page can raise awareness, Nkazi’s passion can only truly be felt firsthand.
F&M offers many opportunities for students to make a difference across the globe. Nkazi’s success will not be an outlier as long as people like McGonigle continue leading the world to unity. Setting a progressive example is something F&M has always stood for, and as that tradition lasts, hope will last as well.