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South Africa Project


Our much anticipated, ‘Oakland-Johannesburg Student Peace Exchange’ trip finally took place in June 2003. Seven youth from McClymonds High School in West Oakland, and  seven adults went to Johannesburg, South Africa.

This trip was preceded by a 12 week long  Peace Empowerment Process workshop at McClymonds High School in Oakland, with a highly motivated and  receptive group of ninth grade students. As part of the workshop, the students at McClymonds as well as their mentors painted a wonderful group of tiles for a section of the World Wall for Peace at our host school- Ennerdale Technical High School - in Johannesburg, South Africa.


After weeks of anticipation and preparation, the day of our much awaited journey finally arrived. We were to fly on British Airways via London and the students were clearly excited. Six of the seven students had never  before flown on an aircraft. Traveling together as a group provided the perfect platform for all of us to share our collective excitement and energies in the hope of a life altering experience.


Rev. Kelvin Sauls, himself a native of Johannesburg, and one of the main driving forces behind this project, paved the way for a comfortable arrival and reception for all of us. He traveled to Johannesburg a day before us in order to  streamline the last bits of co-ordination required at Johannesburg.

On the very first day of our arrival, we saw the Youth Appreciation Day ceremony which celebrated the attainment of freedom for South Africa, from the apartheid government. This ceremony was important for them to remember  what their parents had overcome and to hold strong.

The apartheid Government had been in control in South Africa since 1949. It was a period of time when Blacks were separated from Colored people and Whites. The people at the ceremony said it was important for them to teach their history to everyone so that they would remember, and never forget the tyranny of Apartheid.

The ceremony included a theatre performance that relived the lives lost and the many initiatives undertaken during the years of their struggle for freedom. The ceremony culminated in their singing songs in remembrance of the songs of freedom that had formed an integral part of the non-violent movement initiated by Nelson Mandela.

In all, the first day was an incredible celebration for all of us and clearly a fitting start to our stay in South Africa.


We had envisaged our project to be as much about teaching the Peach Empowerment Process and exchanging Peace tiles for sections of the World Wall for Peace, as about a person to person cultural exchange between our two communities. In that spirit, our hosts from Ennerdale Technical High School, arranged for us home stays with some wonderfully gracious and loving families that made us forget that we were only temporary guests from 10,000 miles afar.

I will personally always remember my stay with Mable Harrison and the hospitality she extended to Dorothy and I.  Mable teaches math to the seniors at Ennerdale High and was part of the organizing team that arranged the home stays. She pleasantly surprised me by suggesting translating my book ‘Creativity in the Lion’s Den - Releasing our Children from Violence’, in Afrikaans - the second most widely spoken language in South Africa after English.



Teaching the Peace Empowerment process to the students at Ennerdale High, was a unique experience for all of us. What made it unique was the fact that the  process was imparted not only by the mentors but also the students from McClymonds High. They attended classes in the Johannesburg school interacting and sharing their own experiences from the Pep workshops in Oakland. Soon, the students from McClymonds had become heroes to their peers at Ennerdale High, even as they collectively shared important lessons in non-violent conflict resolution.

Amongst the student group from McClymonds, one girl, Irene, had a fall of blue hair which made her very popular. Then Keenan who was our only  Tenth grader and a member of Downs Memorial Church told the adoring group at Ennerdale that he was single and available and that he would love to come back and go to college there.

Meanwhile our Peace Empowerment Process unfolded in a wonderful way. The youth  were very strong in their participation, drawing wonderful pictures and participating to the fullest capacity. They walked a mile in another’s shoes, experienced the ‘fire’ element of Peace as well as the ‘water’, ‘air’ and ‘earth’ elements. They worked with the Blueprint of emotional wisdom and expressed their own emotions within each zone of our emotional being.

To initiate our ‘Air’ element of Respect and ‘Earth’ element of Loyalty, we decided to create a skit/drama through which we discussed the issues of dating and HIV.

All in all it was a very deep and powerful week. It  turned out that they were on vacation for three weeks and didn’t get to paint tiles until the following week during their vacation.

Every morning we taught the Peace empowerment process to the more than three hundred ninth graders and every afternoon we went on a field trip to important sights like Nelson Mandela’s house.


As part of the broader scope of our trip, we spend time with the children there visiting art museums and historic sites and learning about traditional crafts.

Our visits took us to the Museum Africa in Newtown that showcased the turbulent history of the region as well as brought us face to face with the realities of Soweto (South West Township). Soweto, a sprawling shanty land, was the direct outcome of the apartheid government’s system of forced removals, moving the Black and Colored populations to specified areas in order to ‘keep them off White land’. We went for a visit to Nelson Mandela’s Soweto home in Orlando where he’d spent many years.

There the refrigerator was bolted shut because chemical and biological weapons were not ‘invented’ by the Apartheid government but were used over there in order to “do in your enemy”. Nelson’s lifelong  friend did the tour for us and spoke of him with the deepest love and respect.

Other than the historic sites, we explored caves and wild animal reserves and had  an opportunity to shop! Every US dollar almost magically got transformed into seven and a half Rands. The Rands got exchanged for some  beautiful crafts that all of us got back as prized souvenirs.


In the second phase of the trip we went to Capetown. We drove on a bus for 16 hours down there. We visited the prison on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years of his life in a tiny cell of 5 square meters. There he was given every chance to escape in which case he would have been murdered. He was wise to these plans and did not attempt to escape.  Robben Island is now a museum and a National memorial in South Africa. We went then to the bottom most tip of Africa and saw the place where the oceans meet.

As part of our home-stay arrangements, I along with Dorothy, Myrna and Barbara, stayed with Leon and Linda Noemdo. Our wonderful hosts made sure each one of us had a hot water bottle to provide us extra comfort at night …just one of those many gestures that ensured, this trip will always remain a memorable journey for all of us who traveled across the ocean, only to find that we all share the same values and dreams for a peaceful existence.


We learned a lot, we gave a lot and we received an experience to remember.

Carolyna Marks          July 17, 2003
Founding Director
World Wall for Peace