Finding Myself in Atlantis

By Sydney Piggott, Intern at IkamvaYouth, Cape Town, South Africa

Sydney reminds us of the impact that education can hold, and gives us a glimpse into an amazing experience with Ikamva Youth in Cape Town, South Africa. 

As soon as my plane descended into Cape Town and I caught my first glimpse of the beautiful cityscape, Table Mountain, and the waves crashing on the famous V&A Waterfront, I knew that I was going to have an unforgettable three months. I can’t begin to describe all the amazing experiences I had in Cape Town interning with an education-focused, non-profit organization called IkamvaYouth. I worked with a passionate group of people, made lasting friendships, and even discovered long lost family. Needless to say, my flight home was an emotional one. Every experience was amazing in its own way, but one stands out above the rest.

When I arrived at Proteus Secondary School in Atlantis at 8:30 on a cold and foggy Monday morning, I didn’t know what to expect. Atlantis is a suburb at the northern-most part of Cape Town along the Atlantic Coast and, despite its mythical name, it has a less than divine reputation. Anxious. Excited. Terrified. I was feeling so many emotions at once. I couldn’t have known at that time that the next three weeks would be the highlight of my internship experience.

Sydney with the tutors and staff
Sydney Piggot leading a class of children

Over the next few days, I delivered a diversity workshop with grade 11 and 12 students during which I shared my story of being a mixed-race young woman in Canada and learned about the identities of the youth in Atlantis. Together, we challenged stereotypes, reflected on who we are, and recognized that we can end our prejudice by understanding each other’s differences. Even after the workshop was finished, we continued to break down the negative perception of young people in Atlantis and found creative ways of expressing how remarkable they are.

I felt so grateful to the students for confiding in me and, in turn, allowing me to share the difficulties I have experienced as a person of colour in a very different context. We learned that, even though I looked very similar to many people in the room, our identities have been shaped by our different experiences and social contexts. Throughout the holiday program, I bonded with students, staff, and volunteers in such a profound way that we were all moved to tears on my last day.

I am so fortunate to have shared this experience with the students, tutors, staff, and volunteers at IkamvaYouth. When I landed in Cape Town, I could not have imagined that I would learn so much; that I would form amazing friendships; or that I would have felt such a connection to the communities that welcomed me with open arms. I thank the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m sure I will be back soon and I can’t wait to hear about all the amazing things Ikamvanites are doing to change the future!

Top photo: Sydney with the Atlantis tutors and staff sporting their IkamvaYouth T-shirts during Winter School.

Bottom photo: Sydney leading a diversity workshop at Proteus High School.