Challenged, changed, rewarded

A former service worker visually reflects on his MCC experience in Africa

November 18, 2015 | Young Voices | Volume 19 Issue 23
Aaron Janzen | Special to Young Voices
We spent a lot of time on the road, travelling to meet with different partner organizations. This road is in the Drakensberg Mountains. (Photo by Aaron Janzen)

My partner Suzanne Braun and I spent three years as Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) service workers in South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho from 2011-14. As the connecting peoples coordinator and planning, monitoring and evaluation coordinator, we worked to support a wide variety of MCC partner organizations throughout the SwaLeSA area. Much of what we did was unglamourous, computer-based work. However, we were also privileged to have the opportunity to travel frequently around the SwaLeSA area.

Our experience challenged, changed and rewarded us. We met and worked with wonderful people who are making important contributions to their communities. We learned about ourselves, grew in confidence, and gained new insights into the impact of race and poverty. These photos provide a brief summary of some of the geographic and programmatic areas in which we worked.

Originally from Coaldale, Alta., Aaron Janzen, 29, lives in Winnipeg and attends Charleswood Mennonite Church. He is a student in the master of natural resources management program at the University of Manitoba.

See other stories on South Africa:

Pushing back with colour 
Journeying towards reconciliation 

We spent a lot of time on the road, travelling to meet with different partner organizations. This road is in the Drakensberg Mountains. (Photo by Aaron Janzen)

Durban, South Africa, with a population 3.4 million people, was our home. It is located on the southeast coast in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. (Photo by Aaron Janzen)

Durban, South Africa, with a population 3.4 million people, was our home. It is located on the southeast coast in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. (Photo by Aaron Janzen)

Call for volunteers

In Durban, and KwaZulu-Natal more broadly, much of MCC’s work revolved around working with refugees and South Africans to promote peace and respond to xenophobia. This is a march on World Refugee Day sponsored by MCC’s partner, Refugee Social Services. (Photo by Aaron Janzen)

The Children’s Care Centre is located in the downtown core of Durban, South Africa. It is an ‘edu-care’ centre run by the Union of Refugee Women. The centre provides a safe learning environment that brings together refugee and South African children. (Photo by Aaron Janzen)

Daniel is a student at the Children’s Care Centre in downtown Durban, South Africa. The centre is one of MCC’s Global Family programs. (Photo by Aaron Janzen)

The Children’s Care Centre is located in the downtown core of Durban, South Africa. It is an ‘edu-care’ centre run by the Union of Refugee Women. The centre provides a safe learning environment that brings together refugee and South African children. (Photo by Aaron Janzen)

Thanks to laptops, we were able to work anywhere. Here Suzanne Braun and James Alty, who was MCC co-representative for SwaLeSA while we were there, do some work while waiting for a meeting with the director of an HIV/AIDS clinic in rural Swaziland. (Photo by Aaron Janzen)

Lesotho is a small kingdom located high up on a plateau in the middle of South Africa. A dry climate, lots of soil erosion and changing seasons make agriculture very difficult. MCC works with Growing Nations Trust to promote conservation agriculture to local farmers. This photo shows some of Growing Nations Trust’s experimental plots. (Aaron Janzen)

James Alty leads a conservation agriculture workshop in a township near Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The chain he is holding provides a clear line so that the crop rows are precise. (Photo by Aaron Janzen)

Most of our travel was for MCC work purposes, but occasionally we had the opportunity to travel for recreation. This photo shows some Basotho men dressed up for tourists at the top of Sani Pass, a road that connects Lesotho and South Africa right through the Drakensberg Escarpment. (Photo by Aaron Janzen)

Hlobisile Nxumalo, the executive director of Acts of Faith, stands in front a recently arrived shipment of blankets and HIV/AIDS care kits donated by MCC’s constituency. These materials will be distributed by home-based caregivers to people living with HIV/AIDS in the Ezulwini Valley of Swaziland. (Photo by Aaron Janzen)

Aaron Janzen and Suzanne Braun were MCC service workers in South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho from 2011 to 2014. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Janzen and Suzanne Braun)

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