South African Experience Guides Student’s Humanitarian Aspirations
During her 2011 visit to Whittier College, Linda Biehl '65 challenged students to devote themselves to service and invited them to intern with the Amy Biehl Foundation, an organization she currently directs.
Faith Govan ’14 answered her call and spent last fall abroad, studying in Cape Town and working with Biehl’s NGO dedicated to providing “transformative experiences for young people in under-served communities” in post-apartheid South Africa.
“I was able to see not only how the NGO functions and makes a difference in the lives of thousands of people in South Africa, but also how to adapt and appreciate a culture so completely different from my own,” said Govan, whose internship was funded by the Center for Engagement with Communities’ LEARN (Learning Enrichment & Academic Resources Network) fellowship program.
Govan recounted a pivotal moment that occurred early on in her Cape Town stay, while visiting an outlying township for the first time.
“These three little girls who could not have been more than four or five walked up to me and started giggling. Their laughter was infectious, and while we gave up trying to talk to each other due to the immense language barrier, we had a two minute dance party in the middle of the street before they all waved goodbye and I rode back to the city. This was one of the first moments I spent abroad that I remember letting go of my anxiety about being so far away from everything I knew and just looked around and appreciated how incredible South Africa and its people are.”
Govan adds that she has been so inspired by her experience in South Africa that she plans to pursue a career helping others on an international level.
“Before I went to South Africa I knew I wanted to be involved in human rights and social work, but I thought I would have to do things locally and that I wouldn't have the opportunity to make much of a difference.
“In the future I want to run my own social service organization working with refugees and displaced persons or maybe to get a government job working towards the protection of human rights worldwide. Either way I want to be helping people.”
- from The Rock, Fall 2013