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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change » My Week with Makaphutu

My Week with Makaphutu

By Sam Pollan ’14

Working with the Makaphutu Trust in the week following our time at the COP was an incredible experience. After two weeks of dawn-to-dusk attendance of the conference, I was expecting things to slow down in the Valley of a Thousand Hills. This, however, was not the case. Our time and manpower was put to work at the Makaphutu Children’s village where we efficiently sorted dozens of boxes of clothes and food for distribution. In addition to the sorting, which would have taken days had only the Makaphutu employees been working, we also painted a building that was going to be a new dorm for the children. And of course, throughout the process the children were hanging all over us. Although it wasn’t quite the same time commitment as the COP, every day we left our work exhausted and with a sense of accomplishment.

One of the afternoons, while we still had some painting left to finish, Esther, Tim and I went to what we thought was just dropping off food at a community center. While my guess was not far off, it certainly was not representative of my actual experience. Our task surpassed merely dropping off the food; we were responsible for distributing the goods to the community. This was one of the most emotionally trying experiences of my life. We arrived an hour late only to find out a man who was very sick with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis had been waiting for several hours for the food. Everyone there was more than willing to help carry and organize the food quickly. Within minutes we had the food, shoes and blankets ready to hand out. The only problem, however, was that there was not even close to enough for everyone to have one of everything. Tim, Esther and I were charged with handing out food to who we thought “deserved it the most.” After that, I felt more drained than even the longest days at the COP. The following day was also deeply emotional where we dropped off food to afterschool orphanages and at another community center.

Our time in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, I felt, was a very appropriate way to finish our trip. After spending those weeks listening to countries being frugal about the future and too indecisive to work in the present, getting down and dirty while helping the people who need it most appeared to be the perfect counterbalance. It especially highlighted that when money is placed in the right area, it can have a huge and immediate impact.

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5 Responses to "My Week with Makaphutu"

  1. Elena Capaldi says:


    I agreed with your post, as a fellow MOSIAC person, however the last statement of your post, “…it especially highlighted that when money is placed in the right area, it can have a huge and immediate impact.” could be slightly reworded to shift the focus from the “place” to the “hands” where that money if coming from. While there is financial resources being funneled into relief programs in developing countries such as Africa, there is also a great misuse and allocation of those resources. By working with and supporting those organizations DIRECTLY INVOLVED in relief efforts, one can be more certain that ther help and money is going to the greatest number of individuals in the most fair and efficient manner. But overall, I should reiterat I enjoy this post.


  2. Christine Burns says:

    I absolutely agree with you Sam. Our time in the Valley of 1000 hills was the perfect way to end our trip. It gave us something concrete to take away from the experience after the COP. Talking to people who are or will be affected by climate change, and giving them just a few hours of our time to organize some clothes and a paint a a few rooms brought home for me how important action is. It’s so funny that we go from the COP situation where everyone is discussing who is to blame and who should take responsibility for the past, but we should be really focused on is everyone doing something. The people of the Valley don’t care who’s fault climate change is, they just need action, from anyone, from everyone!

  3. Taylor Thompson says:

    I really like this post and am happy that I was able to read about your wonderful conclusion to your trip. I completely agree with you and Elena in saying that it is so important to see that proper resources, time, and fiscal donations go to those who need it the most. I feel like a lot of times people donate to a charity willingly, but do not make sure to find out where it ends up. I suppose that idea ties perfectly into our project of discovering where/ how far our food is traveling from and where various food ends up. Back to my previous thought; I wish that more help could be provided to the small-time towns and governments instead of the powerful money holders that do not know what truly is need in an area. I believe that if small communities are given the right information and necessary resources, they can make the biggest difference.

  4. Cyrena Shiland says:

    I really enjoyed reading this reflection on your experience working in Makaphutu. Sounds like quite a trip! Seeing and experiencing the first hand struggles of the locals clearly had an impact on you and all the others who participated. Engaging with the communities who suffer the most and demand the least demonstrates how much they are affected by the climate change and racism. Its the simplest gestures or acts of kindness that mean the most to these people. Taylor, I also had a similar thought as you in regards to our relation to the course and how it applies to the process of tracking our food/material items and being aware of where they come or where they go. For a community like Makuphutu a little goes a long way, but that should determine the quality/quantity of materials they receive. Just by providing these people with the everyday necessities has the ability to establish a crucial impact, as Sam has thoughtfully described.

  5. Will Scott says:

    Sam brings up a great point. The supporting organizations involved in the relief efforts have been less than honest. In order to make a complete impact in the right areas, each and every dollar needs to be put to the use it was intended for. We need the right organizations in place to make a real difference.
    The trip sounded inspiring and life changing!!

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