Alexis Sweeney
Alexis Sweeney
South Africa, 2021
My name is Lexi Sweeney, and I am so excited for this 5 month journey in Cape Town, South Africa! I will be a social work intern at School of Hope, a school for vulnerable youth where I will help facilitate group therapy, individual therapeutic sessions, and social/emotional educational sessions.

The Beginning of the End.

The clock seems to keep ticking, even though I do not want it to. I wish I could spend another 6 months here in the most beautiful city, doing school social work with such an incredible school, exploring this wondrous country, and growing alongside people from all over the world.

Thumbs up in the SOH social work office!

People seem to always ask themselves, “What is my purpose in life?” It seems to be a question that stresses everyone out and forces people to quantify the reason they do each and every thing they do. Personally, I believe the purpose of life is to be in community with others. To share joy, pain, sorrow, happiness, uncertainty, and contentment with those around us. To constantly learn and grow from each other, in order to be better for each other. So the hardest things for me as I near the end of this journey in Cape Town, are the goodbyes. Saying goodbye to colleagues, clients, friends, housemates, Denis from the shop down the road, Ndubela from my favorite fruit stand- that is something that is glooming over me as I count down the days.

 

One of the many incredible quotes written in SOH

In social work, endings are a big thing for us, we call it “termination.” Now, that word seems a little bit harsh, but it is used to explain the need to terminate therapeutic relationships in order for healthy transitions. When leading group therapy, having individual sessions, and leading mentoring programs here, it is impossible to just say goodbye one day. It is a process. So, for the past week I have begun the termination process. It is hard, but it is necessary. 

 

One of my therapy groups that has been difficult to terminate is our young mothers group. These young women are filled with endless courage, strength, and tenacity. Each week they show up with an open heart, empathy, and grace. As I began to tell them a couple weeks ago when my departure date is and how we will transition for that last couple of weeks, the girls were a little resistant, maybe even in denial that I would actually not be there one day. So each week I would remind them, and slowly we all started realizing how quickly the last days were coming. For our final goodbye, for our closure, we had a little celebration for how far the girls have come in these 6 months. There were treats, reflective questions, and many kind words shared by everyone. These women inspired me each and every day. It is hard to leave them, but I just know they will do some incredible things in this world and positively impact every person they meet.

 

Just a few of the staff that has become family

It is also time for me to begin saying goodbye to all of the staff at School of Hope. Now that is a difficult transition for me. The social worker I work with daily has become one of my closest friends, the aunties who keep our school nice and clean have truly become my aunties, and the staff as a whole has become a family to me. Yesterday, I realized I focused so much on having healthy, proper goodbyes with all of my clients, I forgot to prepare myself for all of my own goodbyes with colleagues. As I soon say goodbye to School of Hope, there are countless lessons I have learned, many ways I have grown, and countless joy I have experienced. But I’ll save that reflection (and those tears) until my last day and my next blog post.

 

It is strange to think about living elsewhere now. Not just physically living in a different house, city, country, or even continent, but it is strange to think about having a different way of living. I have gotten used to African time, load shedding, going somewhere “just now,” tea breaks, after-work adventures, walking to everything, and long conversations with shop owners. Ubuntu culture is not talked about here as frequently as I thought it would, but I can most definitely see how deeply rooted Ubuntu is in South African culture. I witness this Ubuntu culture everyday as I watch someone interact with the person who made their coffee, I see it in the way people talk about their communities, and I see it in how every South African I have met has welcomed me with open arms. It is so wonderfully strange how everything is so normal to me here. 6 months ago I was extremely excited to begin this journey, I knew I would grow and change throughout the process, but I could never have imagined how beautifully hard some of that growth would be. I love living here in South Africa. I love my community, I love my internship, I love this way of living. So it is strange to think about living elsewhere, but I am thankful for how this journey has helped prepare me for my next chapter of life.

Thankful to have the best social worker to learn from

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