Olivia Shaw
Olivia Shaw
South Africa, 2021
My name is Olivia Shaw and on January 13, 2021, I will be hopping on a plane to Cape Town, South Africa to begin work in Woodstock at a group home for immigrant and refugee children. I will be living in Cape Town for about six months and am so excited to see how my work will develop in my time there! Read More About Olivia →

Terminations, Transitions, and Transparency

As I transition into my final two weeks in Cape Town, I do so in a country that has entered back into Level 4 of lockdown. A new variant of Covid-19 has entered the country which is now the third variant of Covid-19 that South Africa has had to battle. It has been hard for me to write this post, as I’ve struggled with accepting that my time at Lawrence House has come to an end, and rather abruptly. I began writing this post what feels like months ago in an attempt to proactively begin processing my transition out of my time with Lawrence House yet here I am writing this post, actively missing the children and staff, wishing I could be with them during the lockdown.

As my time in Cape Town comes to an end, living with other international volunteers, I find myself in a perpetual season of goodbyes with good friends as they depart from Cape Town to return home or onto the next adventure. It has been a bittersweet few weeks. Goodbyes are never easy and transitions are particularly hard for me. I have found myself constantly having to remind myself that life continues when the internship ends. The work is never done. The day ends. The funds run out. Your time at a job must finish. I find myself desperately trying to remind myself that my work and my time with Lawrence House does not come down to the days that I lost my patience, the times that I had to enforce rules, or the instances I relied on other staff members to reinforce respect and boundaries- rather that my time with the children was meaningful and enforcing rules is part of the caretaking role.  

One of my favorite places to walk (Newlands Forest) that I’m going to miss dearly!

I’ll be honest, the work doesn’t feel finished. What I learned early on in social work is that the work is never done, and if you let this truth dictate your career and personal life, the job will become infinitely harder. The work that I’ve done with the children at Lawrence House may have long term effects that I will never see. What I was reminded of here by a colleague is that we do not invest in these children and pursue this vocation for the outcome. We chose social work to do good, meaningful work- work that we are passionate about and work that we believe in. I continue to choose social work because I still believe this is true.

What I didn’t expect, and what I’ve found to be just as challenging, is that the transitions in the personal life I have built feels just as challenging. On an evolutionary and biological level, we as humans are creatures of habit. Our bodies rely on homeostasis to remain at a constant. Change is hard. When I first moved to South Africa, (firstly, I moved during lockdown, so everything was closed and there were no friends yet to make), everything was new… It was inevitable that I was going to meet people, I was going to find community. I found people who shared the same faith as me, people who were also not in their country of origin and learning as they were going, people who enjoyed the same extracurricular activities as me. It was inevitable that I was going to make Cape Town home. This made living here holistically more meaningful. It gave me people to come home to and share about the work I was doing. It gave me people to explore my new city on the weekends with. It gave a new meaning to the word “home”.

There are so many things that I’m going to miss. At the forefront of my mind and most pervasive at this moment, is the permission to opt out of wearing shoes… Pretty much anywhere. I can’t imagine that Portland Brew would serve me my latte without them. I will scour diligently for the places in Nashville where my feet can be free upon my arrival. Seriously. 

As I enter this last season of what will be very hard goodbyes, I do so with a heavy heart, but I also do so with excitement to return home and hug my people- the ones who have been cheering me on since I began just thinking about applying for the Lumos travel grant.

In your corner,

Olivia

P.S. Here are some pictures from a recent camping and climbing weekend!

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