Serving in South Africa
The unofficial theme of the night was “get out of Fresno,” as a variety of speakers presented study-abroad opportunities to Smittcamp students at the weekly Colloquium last Thursday night.
Students briefly heard about experiences in China and the inability to use social media there, as well as Prague and its disdain for vegetables. However, the main speaker of the night was senior biology student Walid Hamud. He recently spent a year in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Hamud discussed taking biology classes at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. He explained the many tourist activities he did while in South Africa. He held a cheetah, went on a safari and visited the local beaches, but he was there for much more than that.
Hamud, honored as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar of Goodwill, has to do service work while abroad.
As a pre-med student, Hamud had originally planned to do something medically related. However, he changed focus once in South Africa.
“What the scholarship does an amazing job of doing, is it gives a lot of autonomy and freedom to the scholar,” Hamud said. “They basically tell them, ‘Go find a need in the community that you live in and work with Rotary in the community to help fulfill that need.’ They really encourage you to be a leader and to take the initiative on things.”
Hamud found that need with the Sinethemba Project.
“So I ran into these kids,” he said, “and spending just a couple days with them, learning their stories, not from them but from just the Mamas (mothers) and Tatas (fathers) working at the home. It really touched me.”
The children in this home were experiencing a severe lack of education. They attended what Hamud said are known as “poor black schools,” where the teachers do not even show up sometimes, as they find it too difficult to try to teach these children. Hamud decided to take on the task of teaching the children.
“I thought if I could give the gift of education to at least one child at this home that would mean the world to me,” he said. “I became passionate about them and so attached to them that I really just decided to have that home as my main focus throughout the year.”
Along with his fellow Rotary Scholars, Hamud helped build an area for homework and studying.
Honora Chapman, director of the Smittcamp Family Honors College, introduced Hamud to the Rotary scholarship. She sends many emails to the honors college students about various study abroad and scholarship opportunities. The information about the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship was one of those e-mails. Chapman arranged for Hamud to speak at the Colloquium.
“Every time someone goes abroad, there are 200 students, I make sure to schedule them in.,” Chapman said, “We have once-a-week meetings, Colloquium, and I just make sure by the end of the semester that everyone’s had their chance that has done something within the last three months.”
Hamud has recently applied to medical school and is waiting to find out where he has been accepted, but he plans on returning to South Africa no matter where he goes. He encourages everyone to study abroad at least once before they graduate.
One of Hamud’s favorite quotes comes from Mahatma Gandhi and has become his words to live by.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
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