South Africa

South Africa
The Rainbow Nation

Wednesday, October 24, 2007



Victory at last! We successfully caught the flight out of Johannesburg on Sunday and arrived at the Atlanta Airport on time Monday, October 8th. Who would have ever guessed that we would have a 3 ½ hour delay in Atlanta prior to departing for Columbia. At least we were on American soil and almost home. We kept communicating with Ellison and he conveyed our delays to our families. Victory was so close that we could taste it.

At between 2-3 p.m. our plane touched down in Columbia. There were hugs and kisses and more hugs and kisses from our families. Ellison greeted us with t-shirts that had our team picture and other information on them. What a pleasant surprise!

So now, it is two weeks since our arrival back home; we all have gotten over jet lag and our body clocks have adjusted to this time zone. Each team member is busy with his or her own business of carrying on with life. I have had major surgery and am now recuperating nicely. (God has been faithful to His promises to be with me!) So please accept my apology for not getting the final blog on prior to now.

In retrospect of our Group Study Exchange, we are grateful to all of you who helped make this experience so special; you are too numerous to even begin to thank you individually. Thank you for your prayers and support of the team prior to, during and after the Exchange. God began a good work in the team in the beginning and will complete that work according to His plan. He placed before us numerous opportunities to serve our fellowman in S. Africa – so many aids orphans who have such little hope without someone else getting involved.

District Governor Mary Martin has disseminated to all Rotary Club Presidents a summary of a few of the needs presented to us, and I pray that some of you will respond and let us know that you want to work with us. Rotary International’s motto – “Service Above Self” becomes reality when we get involved with those less fortunate than we are. That’s what Rotary International is all about.

Team members are very willing to give presentations to Rotary Clubs; so please invite one of us to share one of the greatest experiences of our lives. You will laugh and some of you might even cry over the devastation that HIV/AIDS has created on precious children in S. Africa. Whatever your reaction is, you will not be able to forget the faces of those suffering from this horrible disease.

We left as ambassadors for America; we returned as ambassadors for S. Africa!

Elizabeth Smith
Team Leader
Group Study Exchange to S. Africa

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Stuck in Johannesburg!

Would you believe we are having MORE trouble with flights? After saying goodbye to our host families at the Kimberley Airport, we suffered through a bumpy, turbulent flight to Johannesburg. After waiting in line at the Delta International Counter (ahead of time), we were informed that we should have been there one hour before our departing flight and that Delta had given our seats away!! We were only FIVE MINUTES late!!

Annie and Andrea stood at the Delta counter to rebook our flight for the following evening while Elizabeth, Loretta and Will RAN down to the South African Airways desk to find out about accommodations for the evening. LUCKILY, South African Airways was able to book us into 5 villas at the Kopanong Hotel in Johannesburg (along with dinner that evening and two meals the following day). We had a nice dinner and then jumped in bed for a well-deserved night's rest.

The following morning we convened for breakfast (minus Annie, of course) and discussed the plan for the day. Checkout time was supposed to be 11:00 a.m. but when the hotel heard our predicament they agreed to extend our checkout time to 2:00 p.m.

Loretta and I are sitting in the hotel lobby now; Elizabeth and Andrea are enjoying a walk around the hotel grounds; and Annie has yet to be seen this morning.

Pray for us - we hope to be home safely by 11:15 on Monday morning.

Will Moody
GSE Team Member

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Special Blog Alert.

Dear Friends and Family Members,

Our blog is now updated through our 11th and final stop - Kimberley. We regret that we have been unable to include pictures. We have asked a number of Internet and I.T. professionals to assist us and they have also failed to upload our pictures. Broadband Internet speeds are much different here than in the United States (the U.S. is much, much faster). Pictures taken by digital cameras are often between 1.5 and 2.5 megabytes and a fast connection is needed to upload image files of that size to an Internet site (in a reasonable amount of time). A number of factors are working against us, so please be patient and we will share our pictures when we return.

Will Moody
GSE Team Member


September 29– October 2 Vryburg (Stop 10 out of 11)

On the afternoon of Saturday, September 29th, after our longest commute since arriving in South Africa, we reached our 10th destination: Vryburg, aka “The Texas of South Africa”.

We began our adventure in Vryburg by jumping into the bed of a “bakki” and heading to a game farm. We saw many different species of game, including kudu, ostrich, and rhino. After Loretta suffered an abrasion on her right elbow (she just wanted to say she had a scar from South Africa!), we rounded a turn to find “6” rhino (4 white rhino and 2 black rhino, including 2 babies) standing in the middle of the road. The rhino were quite agitated when we began to follow them down the dirt road! At one point, the rhino turned toward us with their heads dropped, and we were certain we would be charged and toppled. Thankfully, all ended well and Loretta’s abrasion was the only pain and suffering endured.

On Saturday evening, we ate dinner at “Ramblers”, a private, local tennis club. Many Rotarians joined us for dinner as well as many locals who just wanted to meet the “Americans”. As usual, we had a wonderful time getting to know our new hosts and their friends, and we truly received a taste of Texas (in South Africa, that is)!!

SUNDAY=Rest Day!! Praise the Lord, we had the day off. After attending Rotarian Rev. Eric’s Mahlazi’s Methodist church in the local township, we headed to Wally and Jeanette Brink’s for an afternoon of food and fellowship. On Sunday evening, we sat through the torture of the South African vs. American World Cup Rugby game. Go Springboks!

Monday in Vryburg was full of interesting events, people and places. We began the morning by touring local Rotary projects, including Tiger Kloof, a publicly funded school, operated on private property, where we were served and hosted lunch by the 10th graders. The afternoon continued by each team member spending some time in their respective vocations. On Monday evening, we returned to Tiger Kloof for dinner and our presentation. Many of the Tiger Kloof Interact students were able to attend our presentation as well as “Mamma Ruth”; the current Mayor of Vryburg, previous Secretary to Nelson Mandela, and 33rd ranked political official in all of South Africa. What an AWESOME experience!!

Tuesday morning, we were all packed up and ready to travel to Kimberley. After stopping by “Mamma Ruth’s” office to present her with a SC State Flag, we began our last road trip. We were joined by several Rotarians from Vryburg who ended our adventure by taking us to the Olive Farm and Wine Vineyard in Hartswater before handing us over to the Kimberley Rotarians.

Annie Geddings, GSE Team Member

Welcome to Welkom.

Thursday, September 27 – Saturday, September 29

Eight down and three more to go! Our path has taken us all over S. Africa from Port Elizabeth to Welkom and given us the opportunity to meet some really special Rotarians and families. There have been no dull moments in our adventures.

We were taken by Richard and Allen (hosts) from Bloemfontein Thursday morning (Sept. 25th) half way to Welkom. Oh dear, here we go again with all that luggage! Angel and Johnny stuffed and stuffed until they finally were able to get all the luggage in 2 cars. What a feat! I actually had to carry one of Andrea’s pieces on my lap; so Andrea, you owe me one! Oh, what relief when we arrived in Welkom!

Anybody for lunch?? Yes, the Team was glad to eat again. I think this has become a habit with us. So after we fed our faces, we headed off for another visit.

There are many gold mines in the area providing a stable economy for the town. Unfortunately, however, mining is dangerous and often results in physical injuries. Oppenheimer Hospital, our next place to visit, is a hospital which was established for injured miners. According to our expert physical therapist, Andrea, hospital employees were doing a good job providing occupational and physical therapy for miners. The activities were very specific to the injuries and the skills needed by the miners. For the development of fine motor skills, the patients were actually making items (ex. basket weaving) rather than just exercising. Of course, you know who had to see if she could climb the ladder (me).

Loretta and I were taken to our host family, Bill and Gerda, where we were able to take a nice shower and have a cup of Roibus tea. Four Rotary Clubs (52 including children) met together for dinner and for our presentation. It went well and we received compliments from the group.

We had to rise quite early so we could head off to the gold mine at 6:30 a.m. Does anyone out there have some toothpicks I can use to hold my eyes open???? We were given an orientation regarding the history of the mine and safety precautions. Our garb (overalls, big boots, gloves and hard hats) made us look like we were from outer space. Workers thought we were quite funny. Next came the elevator to take us down 5200 feet; we were knocking on the Devil’s door! After exiting the elevator, we walked for almost a mile through mud, water and broken rocks before reaching the location of real adventure – the rock face. We entered almost pure darkness except for the lights on our hard hats and began descending to where the worker was drilling in preparation for blasting. I slipped and slid, trying to hold onto the cables overhead but my short body had difficulty reaching them. Finally at the end, the manager pointed out how the gold looked. It was amazing how much rock had to be removed to get only a small amount of gold. What an experience and what new appreciation we gained for the workers who must stay in small, dark spaces day in and day out. Light, wonderful light!!! The Team was so happy to walk out of the darkness and enter the elevator to return to the light of day.

During our next tour, “Morning Star Center” for HIV Positive children is a mission that brings light and hope to its otherwise hopeless.. Children are picked up each morning by buses and taken to the Center where they are fed and given medical care. The Center serves almost 60 children ranging in age from infants to 16 year olds. They sang and danced for us.

Off to lunch again. After lunch, we were taken to another Township where 450,000 people live. Homes ranged from extremely poor shacks to really nice homes. Every township has several “shebeens” (pubs) even though the people are the poorest in S.Africa. We had been told horror stories about their having put battery acid in the wine/liquor; however, the one they took us to was a decent place with regular cokes, beer, etc.

Hurry up, get showered and dressed for another Club social – that was the command. We enjoyed another braai and fellowship with Rotarians and their families.

The next morning I chose to spend some last minutes with my host family, Bill and Gerda. What an inspiration they were to me! The couple is going through many challenges. Gerda has a health problem but displays such faith in God and His will being done in her life. She radiated with God’s peace.

Breakfast was enjoyed by everyone and Fred with the Vryburg Rotary Club loaded us and our luggage in a combi – “on the road again!”

Elizabeth Smith
Team Leader


After the conference in Lesotho, we were on our way to Bloemfontein. A few of the Rotarians who attended to conference were nice enough to give us a ride to their city. The first thing we did was to take a tour of Bloemfontein with Richard, the president of the club. Bloemfontein is a wonderful city with an opera house, a game reserve in the city limits, lots of shopping, etc. After the tour, we had dinner at Catherine’s home with salmon, pasta, cheesecake – really good food.
The next day, we woke up to a vocational day. Elizabeth, Will, Annie, and Andrea went to the Sunflower House; a place that children with incurable disease could go to spend quality time , and be looked after. Joan, a very knowledgable nurse, had a dream to provide this service, and she made it come true. We also went to the local hospital for a look at the pediatric areas, and the “kangaroo program” which enables new mothers to spend time with their infants rather than the infants going to an isolette without bonding time. Loretta went to the criminal sexual magistrate court that issues protection orders against criminal domestic violence. We came home for lunch, and then did some shopping for souvenirs in the city. That night , the Rotarians took us out to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant; the only Mexican restaurant we have ever been to that didn’t serve chips and salsa at the beginning of the meal.
The next morning, we actually woke up to a thunderstorm. The area hasn’t had rain for months and months. We went to a game reserve, Emoya, despite the rain, and took a walking tour of the reserve with a guide named Jacques from Botswana. The tour was fantastic – we had a great time. We saw lots of wildlife, including zebra, eland , springbok, duiker, a cat named a caricol, snakes, cheetah, including 2 little playful baby cheetah, and giraffes. We even got to play with the baby cheetahs and pet them, as well as the snakes ( whoever wanted to, that is ). We went home to rest for a while, and then that night, we gave our presentation to the 2 rotary clubs in the area. We gave our usual presentation, followed by our picture program that was seen at the conference with a few new pictures thrown in from Bloemfontein. Another day; next we are headed to Welkom.

Aliwal North

Aliwal North
September 19, 2007
We are well rested, luggage packed and ready to take on the next 2 ½ weeks.
As we leave Colesberg for Aliwal North. We’re checked out of Gallop Inn and standing on the sidewalk with our bags. Someone came along and unlocks the trailer that was parked near the sidewalk. We packed the trailer with our luggage, but we need more space. The waiting game starts again. We’re waiting for the trailer to be hooked up to a vehicle and a vehicle to carry the rest of our luggage and us of course.
Just now, two cars arrive within minutes of each other. What do you know; the last vehicle, the driver is a banker, working on banker’s hours? Off we go to meet out next host family. We met in a small town name Venterstad. We said our good byes and thank you to Jack and Dave.

As we traveled another 1 ½ hour, Elizabeth of course needed a pit stop .We stopped in small town named Bugerdorp. Andrea is checking on the plans and yes they have changed. We arrived safely at the homes of our host families. Andrea and Loretta are staying together again at the Conville Bed and Breakfast. The Conville Bed and Breakfast is a beautiful mini castle with wonderful landscape and a dairy farm. Andrea and I are received a quick farming lesson on Lucerne, as Rex try to cool off in the pond. The team reassembled at Khapa Public Fet College to get a first hand experience of the literacy program sponsored by Rotary of Aliwal North. The program is designed to provide Basic English lessons and skills. The students are taught using computers software that guide them through each lesson plans such as letter writing, grammar, vocabulary, curriculum vitas, creating invitations and programs. The student’s age ranges from 14-54 years of age. The class is held once a week for an hour. The evening concluded with a social gathering and the team giving our presentation at Linda and Antony (Conville BB).

The next day was vocational day for each of us. Will, Elizabeth and I went to the Holy Cross Catholic School where Annette (?) teaches grade 2. Dr. Smith gave the class a lesson, while Will and I gave out juicy fruit chewing gum.

We were than taken to the Aliwal North Masango Career School. Most of the students are classified as street children. The children were happy to greet American. They sang and danced for us. The staff prepared coffee and tea as we sit with them to learn more about the school. The local Newspaper came out to capture some pictures to do a story on our visit. Annie and Andrea visited a hospital in Lady Gray. The evening concluded with a social gathering the Conville Bed and Breakfast. The next morning we were off to Lesotho. So we think!!!!

Loretta Davis, GSE Team Member

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Welcome to the Mountain Kingdom - Maseru, Lesotho!

First, we need to let you know that we are having a terrible time uploading images to the blog. We have tried repeatedly and have failed each time. Please know we ARE taking many pictures and will share those when we return.

We departed from Aliwal North on Friday, September 21 and drove to a halfway point between Aliwal North and Maseru. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the halfway point and did not see any Rotarians to take us the rest of the way! We waited for about 20 minutes and finally called our contact in Maseru. Oh no...he had not left Maseru nor had he arranged for transportation! We had to think fast, but luckily our wonderful Aliwal North hosts agreed to drive us the rest of the way to Maseru.

Crossing the border into Lesotho was scary. We ALL felt extremely unsafe as we made our way through the dense crowd to the Customs Office. We waited and waited but nobody arrived to take us to our host families! After several tense phone calls, two vehicles arrived and we were on our way.

We arrived at the Lesotho Convention Center and were greeted by many friendly Rotarians at the District 9320 Conference. We went home with our host families to shower and change clothes.

That afternoon and evening, we enjoyed the opening ceremonies for the district conference. I was asked to carry the Canadian flag in the procession of flags! We met the GSE Team from Colorado and also some Ambassadorial Scholars from the U.S. That evening, we had a nice meal and retired for some much needed rest.

The following morning (Saturday), we woke early and joined the GSE team from Colorado for a 2-hour drive into the HIGH Lesotho Mountains (over 6,000 feet) to tour the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. This is a joint project between Lesotho and South Africa that was begun in 1986. The project will span 50 years and involves the construction of 5 major dams as well as a sophisticated hydroelectric power system. Lesotho is a water-rich nation while South African provinces such as Gauteng are water-poor. Water is diverted from the mountains to South Africa. Lesotho also exports electricity to South Africa. Two hours up the mountain road meant two hours DOWN the mountain road. It was a long morning...

That afternoon we enjoyed seeing the Colorado GSE team's presentation after a nice lunch. That evening, we had a "cultural night" during which we saw traditional South African and Zulu dances. Another great meal finished off this busy day.

Sunday morning found us anxious because it was now OUR turn to give our presentation to the district! After a quick lunch, we did our presentation flawlessly and even received a standing ovation. We finished the day with the concluding banquet during which Elizabeth presented a South Carolina flag to King Letsie III. The South Carolina flag we presented has flown over the State House in Columbia. Tomorow morning -- on to Bloemfontein.

Will Moody, Team Member

P.S. The blog from Aliwal North will be posted soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mid-Tour Break -- Colesberg!

Well, well, believe it or not, we’ve made it to our Mid-Tour Break!! We arrived in the “Metropolis” of Colesberg on Sunday, September 16th and checked-in to the Gallop Inn around lunch time; home of the infamous “Horse and Mill” pub/restaurant. Centrally located between Johannesburg and Cape Town in the Karoo of the Northern Cape of South Africa, Colesberg has become known as “the place” to refuel, eat a nice local dinner and get a great night’s sleep. Unfortunately, because of such facts, Colesberg has also become famous for very high rates of HIV/AIDS due to the numerous truck drivers passing through the area who often pay for prostitutes during their stay-over.

For the first time since the trip began, the team shared joint accommodations in a guest house; however, much to our dismay, our team leader had purposely been placed apart from us as our hosts inferred that she may need some peace and quiet. Can you imagine needing a break from the four of us? Thankfully, her single accommodation was directly behind us; right out of our back door.

Early Sunday afternoon, we enjoyed lunch at the Horse and Mill and later that evening, we returned once again to the Horse and Mill for dinner; can you say “Babotie and yellow rice”? Rotarian Jackie Ramsey, owner of the Gallop Inn/Horse and Mill has been a wonderful hostess as she’s allowed us to rest (at the strong direction of District 9320 GSE Inbound Coordinator, Gay Best) and has taken care of our every need, including the piles of laundry we brought with us from Graaff Reinet!!

Upon request, we met with the Rotary Club of Colesberg on Monday evening and shared our group presentation prior to dinner with club members. Good food, good fun, and great fellowship! BIG THANKS to the Colesberg Rotary Club!!

We’ve all enjoyed a couple days of “R & R” and we’re now all adept at the card game “I Doubt It”. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve eaten, and we’ve slept. It’s been a wonderful break, a time of healing, and quite frankly, it’s time to get this show on the road!!

Tomorrow morning we depart for Aliwal North at 0830am (YUCK, that’s early!) and then we’re headed to Maseru, Lesotho for the annual District 9320 Conference. More details to follow...stay tuned!

Annie Geddings, Team Member
GSE South Africa

Monday, September 17, 2007

Graaff Reinet - In the Great Karoo!

On Thursday, September 13 we departed from Port Alfred and began the long drive to Graaff Reinet. Graaff Reinet is the fourth oldest town in South Africa and it is nestled next to the brooding Camdeboor Mountains. Located in the Great Karoo, Graaff Reinet is in a semi-arid region of South Africa where cacti and agave plants dot the dry, cracked landscape.

Andrea and Loretta were excited to stay together with Joye and Peter who run a plant nursery behind their home. Will and Annie were also glad to stay together with Trevor and Mirinda who operate a meat processing business from their home. During their stay with Trevor and Mirinda Will and Annie found themselves snacking on delicious smoked biltong and kudu salami. Elizabeth stayed with President Lutz Nick, his wife Karen and their daughter Vanessa.

During our first evening in Graaff Reinet, we socialized with our host families until after dinner. We then convened at a local club to enjoy each other’s company. The wonderful Rotarians of Graaff Reinet presented Will with a small birthday present and everyone sang “Happy Birthday.”

The following day (Friday, September 14), was our vocational day in Graaff Reinet. Will and Elizabeth visited Union Preparatory School where they both had the opportunity to teach a mini-lesson to students. Loretta visited local law enforcement agencies and the police academy, where she was very impressed with the training and the firing range. Annie visited the local hospital and Andrea spent the afternoon with a physical therapist.

That evening, we all convened at The Lemon Tree, a local restaurant, where we enjoyed a nice finger supper after our GSE presentation to the Rotary Club of Graaff Reinet. After the meal and presentation, everyone rushed home to watch the rugby game except Elizabeth. She can’t keep up with the youngsters; she went to bed.

On Saturday, September 15 we began our day with a wonderful walking tour of Graaff Reinet, led by President Lutz. We saw the beautiful Cape Dutch Colonial-style houses and toured the Graaff Reinet museum. Behind the museum, a water fountain with a reverse-osmosis filtration system offers visitors a cool drink. This water fountain was a project of the Rotary Club of Graaff Reinet in honor of Rotary International’s 100th year anniversary.

After having lunch with our host families, we joined together again for an evening trip to the Valley of Desolation. The Valley of Desolation is a spectacular geological formation located high in the mountains. We all looked into “the Devil’s Chimney” which is a 120-meter chimney-like tunnel leading straight down through the rocks. Local legend says the wind and the noise of the rock rabbits make an eerie noise that mimics the sounds of devils at play. We didn’t stay long enough to experience the sound!

Trevor and Mirinda hosted a lovely braai at their home for all the team members and local Rotarians. We enjoyed kudu steak and other delicious dishes as we enjoyed each other’s company.

On Sunday, September 16, we all said goodbye to our host families and we departed for our next stop – Colesberg!

Will Moody, Team Member

Port Alfred - A Seaside City.

September 10 – 13 Port Alfred (Stop 3 out of 11)

Arrived in Port Alfred on Sept. 10 just before noon and time to eat again! Oh, too much food; we won’t be able to fit into our clothes by the time we return on Oct. 7. For lunch, we were served fish and salad thinking this was our meal. Suddenly, they brought another lunch of chicken and veggies. So you can see what I mean about not being able to fit into our clothes. After depositing our luggage and lunch, Larry and Elene took us on a speed boat ride down the Kowie River. Oops no toilet available so Elene and I took off to the woods. Later we discovered that there had been leopards roaming in that area. Wow! How thankful we had not been visited by a leopard.

The Team split up and had dinner with host families. Again we indulged. Our host families are some of the most considerate people in the world. Actually, we have received wonderful treatment during our first 1 ½ weeks.

Another late night and early up! The Port Alfred Rotary Club Meeting began at 6:45 A.M. President Lorraine Samuel (my host) did a great job directing the meeting. Their guest speaker was the Headmaster of Port Alfred High School and spoke concerning changes that had been made. The Club had received a Matching Grant for many computers for which he expressed his appreciation.

Each team member was taken to his/her vocational day. Will and I visited Port Alfred High School (K-12); Will visited with a Guidance Counselor while I went to classrooms with the Headmaster. The counselor with whom Will met served as a volunteer because the government provided only a limited number of teachers. I had the exciting privilege of teaching a mini lesson to a class full of third graders. What fun integrating geography, math and life skills! I got hugs from all the children.

Andrea and Annie visited the local hospital and went with the Rotarian Dr. Dietre for home visits in the Townships. What poverty! “Service Above Self” was important to Andrea and Annie in this situation. Loretta visited the local fire department and police station. As people have watched our presentation, they have been enthralled with the pictures of Loretta with her gun. Loretta helps to keep us safe with her knowledge of safety and security.

Time to eat again!! We had a delicious lunch at a restaurant on a boat and then visited the Jehovah Jireh Aids Haven. Even before I was selected as the GSE Team Leader, God had given me a passion to develop a Matching Grant for aids orphans. During our short stay in S. Africa, we have seen many HIV/Aids orphans but I knew when we found the right one, we would know and this is it. As we approached the house, we could tell that it was a place very limited in resources but filled with love. The house is run by Molly Band, a true servant of God. Her doors are never closed to any child. One can not believe the crowdedness of that little house that is a refuge to approximately 55 children. She and the volunteers pray each day for food for that day.

As we distributed one piece of Juicy Fruit, the children expressed great joy over such a little thing. We played and had fun with them on the dirt yard, and then they sang Christian songs with such beautiful voices. You can tell by the pictures of Andrea and Will swinging little ones, Annie having fun with her “wild hair” (to get the children to pick up the gum wrappers) and Loretta taking and showing pictures to the children. They get so excited when they see themselves on the digital camera.

Molly told us many stories of the tragedies the children have experienced. One such story was about a 2 year old who had just died a few days prior to our being there. She sat by the crib of the little boy as he passed from this life to his eternal home in Heaven. We saw several children who have full blown aids. How I thank God for calling Molly to this ministry and for giving her grace to do the job. The entire team left with an overwhelming sadness and determination to do something to help.

Tuesday evening offered another great meal! All the host families and Team members enjoyed a time of fellowship and sharing of the day’s activities. At approximately 9 P.M. we sat down to another delicious S. African meal-another late night.

Wednesday morning, Larry and Elene took us to the Soup Kitchen Ministry where they prepare bread, soup and maybe some chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken. This food is given to numerous organizations (including Molly’s) as well as feeding those who come to the Kitchen. After helping bag the food, the Team members helped distribute food bags to local people and then headed off to the “Dump” where many people live in shacks or in the fields on the dump. They forage through the dump that is brought out by the city, using everything they can find. Empty plastic bottles are gathered from the dump so they can put the soup in. One can not realize the impact of seeing and serving these people, including many children, unless you actually experience it.

The people lined up in rows beginning with the youngest children; men and women were in separate lines and finally women with small babies. The Leader sang Christian songs with them and then delivered a brief sermon. Finally, it was time to distribute the food. What a privilege the Team had in helping distribute the soup and bread. Loretta and I dished up the soup into the soiled plastic bottles. We could fill only half of the containers so there would be enough to serve all. At the end when there was a little bread left, all of the people scrambled for the last slices of bread; some even got into a ruckus.

On that particular day the ministry did not have enough bread given to them, so they had to purchase more. The entire ministry is run by volunteers like Debbie and Charlie who are willing to “Serve Others Above Themselves.” The Kitchen is in need of either a stove and big pots or a bigger electric container in which to cook the soup. As one can surmise from these stories, there are many, many needs in S. Africa.

We went from this experience to an experience totally opposite from the Dump and Soup Kitchen. The Kuyasa School held hope for children. Port Alfred Rotarians had gotten a Matching Grant to purchase computers for the school thanks to Hans, their Matching Grants Director. The children met us with colorful uniforms and big smiles. They sang and danced for us. Even the teachers sang for us during a planned ceremony. We met Mayor Balura and I presented him with our District banner. The morning was filled with good things and sad situations.

The evening brought another delicious S. African meal and the Team giving their presentation. We were asked many questions and had a great time with the Port Alfred Rotarians. They recognized Will’s birthday, which was the next day, with a beautiful cake and the “Happy Birthday” song. It was sad to leave these wonderful and warm Rotarians, Rotary Anns and their families. Our hats are off to PP Colin Wiggett for the marvelous job he did. Everything was so well organized, even to smallest details. Thursday morning we were taken half way to our next destination and were met by President Lutz Nick. He had a challenge getting us and our luggage into the van. One is supposed to reduce the size of his/her luggage as he/she gives out their gifts; however, that has not been the case with us. Annie even had to buy another suitcase in which to put all her newfound treasures. “Okay Annie, no more purchases.”
Elizabeth Smith, Team Leader

Beautiful Grahamstown!

Our time in Grahamstown started well. Shortly after our arrival, we gave our presentation to the combined Grahamstown Rotary clubs. The next morning we had our vocational day, which meant that Elizabeth and Will headed back to school; Annie and I traveled to the hospitals; and Loretta went to the police and fire stations. After vocations and lunch, we headed to the Makana Meadery where mead, a kind of wine made with honey, is being made. Needless to say, the samples were good. That evening, we headed to the home of Isak and Debbie Smuts for a delicious bring-and-share dinner with other Rotarians.
Saturday was a busy day. We went to the Observatory Museum for an optical view of the town through a telescopic lens from high above the city. This device is called a camera obscura and there are only 6 that exist in the world. Next, to the Albany Museum with a fairly well – known paleontologist, Billy de Klerk, described evolution with multiple dinosaur bones and full – size models. We also visited Siya Zama School on this day. After an indoor picnic, we listened to an outdoor lecture on Signal Hill overlooking the city. Our tour guide spoke regarding the historical aspect of Grahamstown. We had chairs and blankets; all we needed was a fire, since it was quite chilly (and difficult to stay awake).
Saturday night brought separation to the group, as we went our separate ways with our individual host families. Most of us went to a dinner party and then to sleep. The next day was our first official rest day. Everyone except me went to a “bring and braai” at the Greens’ home; however, my family wanted to take me to Addo Elephant Park for the day. There were plenty of elephants around the park, mostly in groups of about 15 or so, as well as lots of warthogs and a few meerkats thrown in . We also saw a giraffe high up on a hill on the way to the park along the highway. It turned out to be a great day – on to Port Alfred the next morning.
Andrea D’Arienzo, Team Member

Lalibela Game Park!

Tuesday, September 5, 2007

After what was supposed to be a morning of rest and relaxation for the team, nobody took advantage of the R&R! We all started the day early and with great anticipation of our afternoon activities. We knew that later in the day, we would be in search of the BIG FIVE, the most dangerous animals in South Africa.

Will and Elizabeth started their morning at the House of Resurrection AIDS Haven for children. I returned to the Narina One Stop Child Justice Centre for about an hour and was then taken from there to visit the Khayaletha Home for Street Boys. Andrea enjoyed yoga and Annie spent time with the wife of her host family.

Around noon we convened to take our journey out to the Lalibela Game Reserve. After a 45 minute drive, we reached our destination and were greeted by some of the friendliest people! They greeted us with water and blankets. They took us to a nice restaurant which is a part of the park. We enjoyed a tasty African dish of creamy potatoes and delicious seasoned, spiced grilled chicken. After our luscious lunch at the Lentaba Lodge, we embarked on our journey. Look out Big Five of South Africa here come - the big five of South Carolina!

As we journeyed through the park, we were spellbound by the great numbers of animals we saw. A multitude of zebra, rhino, warthog, bushbuck, kudu, blespok, and antelope. The highlight of our game drive came when we spotted not one but TWO male lions sunning themselves on a hill. They were both focused on a new cheetah that was recently introduced to the game reserve. By this time the chill of night had set in and our game drive was over. We all agreed that we would never forget our exciting adventure.
Loretta Davis-Team Member

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Our beautiful house in Jeffrey's Bay.

Annie wakes up from a nap on the plane.

Our going away party in Columbia.

Loretta struggles with her bags.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Our Adventure Continues!

Monday, September, 3rd, 2007

Day #3 in South Africa and still NO LUGGAGE, but Praise the Lord, we awoke in St. Francis Bay to CLEAN, but “wet” clothes (our only set)!! The team’s excitement to find a washing machine the night before was quickly diminished upon recognizing that “uh-oh”; we still don’t have anything to wear. Thankfully, our hostess for the day, Pauline Scheepers, President of the Jeffreys Bay Rotary Club, came quickly to our rescue and informed us that tumble dryers were available in Jeffreys Bay at Mouses Laundromat. Just one catch; we were one hour away from Jeffreys Bay with lots of scenes/attractions to view along our route!!

So, all packed up and clothed in our “Mr. Price” attire that was purchased upon arrival to Port Elizabeth, we completed our Sunday morning prayer time and loaded up for our daily adventure. The weather was cool, the skies cloudy, and the combi was packed with excitement. We toured the beautiful and quaint area of St. Francis Bay, Cape St. Francis &, Port St. Francis. We visited the “Wild Side” of Jeffreys Bay and took some wonderful photos before proceeding to the St. Francis Bay Light House (the 2nd most Southern point in South Africa) and visited the Penguin rescue facility.

Upon arriving into the town of Jeffreys Bay, we quickly learned that Mouses Laundromat had closed at 12:30pm. You guessed it; we didn’t arrive until a quarter past 1:0pm! Here we go again…

Hope returned upon arriving at LeannĂ©’s as we discovered that she had a tumble dryer in her home!! YIPPEE, HOORAY!! We enjoyed fellowship and an informal lunch with several members of the Jeffreys Bay Rotary Club, and although hesitant upon my prompting, the team finally agreed to an informal practice of our presentation.

The presentation was well received and the Jeffreys Bay Rotarians asked many questions. After the presentation, we headed off to walk and collect shells on the beach of beautiful Jeffreys Bay, home of the international Billabong surf competitions. All in all, our first Rotarian meeting experience, although informal, was considered a huge success by all. The South African cuisine was delicious, the fellowship was entertaining and educational, and the thought of clean dry clothes was exhilarating!!

After our walk on the beach, we headed back to Leanne’s to find Andy Crowe, District 9320 Outgoing GSE Team Leader to Colorado (March 2008) and Bob Derbyshire, Rotary President, Port Elizabeth East anxiously awaiting us. We loaded up our carry-on luggage (ha, ha) and headed to Port Elizabeth to meet our first host families. For the first time in four days, we all headed our separate ways and put our training to the test!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The application of everything learned…VOCATIONAL DAY #1. Dr. Smith headed off to the African township to teach lessons to 3rd graders and then visited the Missionvalle AIDS Haven; Will to The Collegiate High School for Girls and the Herbert Hurd Primary School; Loretta to Stepping Stones (American Juvenile Court); Andrea to the school for autistic children; and I headed off to the “House of Resurrection”, an AIDS Haven for infants, children, and adults.
The House of Resurrection, operated by Matron Agnes, better known as “Aggi” to the children, gave me a wonderful tour of the facility, introduced me to all of the staff, and allowed me to interact and play with the infants, toddlers, and children. The facility was immaculately clean and the staff was delightful. I had a wonderful time loving on all of the infants and they were absolutely amazed by my ability to take their digital picture and immediately show it to them. So of course, I had to take an individual picture of every baby in the nursery because they were not only amazed, they were all reaching out for me to hold them!! The House of Resurrection has a beautiful chapel and a lovely “Memory Garden” where several of their previous patients’ ashes have been buried.

Annie Geddings, Team Member (GSE South Africa)

Our Adventure Begins!

After several months of planning, training and preparing for our GSE, the day had finally arrived. Our bags were packed (so we thought), our passports and other documentation were in order and we were checking in at the Delta Station. Oops! too much weight in Loretta’s bags. So here is Loretta with items spread all over the floor in the front of the Station with her daughter and team members helping her decide how to redistribute items. For some reason, we can’t seem to get the zipper to close. But, David Wright, my Alternate, came to our rescue and with his strong hand, he succeeded in closing the bag.

Once we got Loretta through, we made our way to the Carolina Room where Heather Hornsby and Bob Montgomery had prepared a Bon Voyage party for us. What a great and marvelous send off!!! More than 25 family members and friends joined us in the Carolina Room to give us a proper send-off in South Carolina fashion. We were excited to have with us District Governor Mary Martin, Assistant Governor Julia Boyd, Assistant Governor Mary Scarborough, past GSE Team Leaders Bob Montgomery, Rick Melton, and Richard Hucks. Numerous family members and other well-wishers were present as well. As you can see, we felt like celebrities with all of the cameras and attention! Before going our separate ways, we all joined hands and offered a final prayer in thanksgiving for this wonderful opportunity.

As we made our way through the security checkpoint, several of Andrea’s items were confiscated! Sorry, Andrea. We hurried to the gate, thinking we were just in time for our departing flight to Atlanta. Oh no! We were delayed once…twice! Oh, but maybe there was a reason for our delay. We had a special opportunity to meet a family who was being reunited with their husband/father on his return from a year of duty in Kuwait. We recruited others seated in the gate area to applaud the brave soldier as he made his way into the airport. It was heartwarming to see him embrace his three young children and then his wife.

Two hours later, we boarded the plane for Atlanta. The flight was uneventful but we knew we had to hurry if we wanted to make our connecting flight to Dakar, Senegal. Boarding the plane was smooth but the weather had other plans. The plane taxied to the runway but was delayed for over two hours due to weather conditions. Finally, when the pilot announced we were next for take-off, we knew our adventure was truly underway.

A little over eight hours later, we landed in Dakar, Senegal where the plane was boarded and thoroughly searched by airport security officers. Oh dear, Loretta had luggage problems again! She couldn’t remember where she had stowed her bag. Luckily, she was able to find it before the security officers got to her. Finally, the plane took off and we were on our way to Johannesburg. That’s where the adventure really got interesting!

We landed in Johannesburg around 6:20 p.m. and hurried to the baggage claim area so we could go through customs. Imagine our surprise when, thirty minutes later, we were the only five people still standing at the baggage carousel. None of our luggage had appeared. As Dr. Smith, Annie and Andrea began to fill out the “missing baggage forms,” Loretta and Will set off to find hotel accommodations for the night, as we had missed our connecting flight to Port Elizabeth. Loretta and Will had to fend off some suspicious characters as they obtained questionable information about hotels. Loretta and Will decided to return to the rest of the team who was still in the baggage claim area. We finished filling out the necessary paperwork, we decided to go back to the Delta counter to ask about hotel vouchers. The Delta staff was helpful and reserved us five rooms at the Southern Sun Hotel. We were a little frustrated when different airport personnel gave us conflicting answers about what to do about our missed flight. We ran from counter to counter, were given conflicting information, and finally decided to call it a night.

We caught the shuttle to the Southern Sun and were happily surprised to see that it was a very nice hotel! We met briefly in Dr. Smith’s room and then adjourned to the hotel’s lovely dining room where we enjoyed South African cuisine. After a long day, we all retired to our rooms for a well-deserved night of rest and a hot shower.

The next morning (Saturday, September 1), we enjoyed a nice breakfast of granola, fruit, omelets, paw paw, and other delicious items. After checking out, we returned to the airport where we questioned numerous airport personnel (again) about how to get tickets to Port Elizabeth. Finally, we purchased new tickets through Nationwide and got on a 1:00 p.m. flight to Port Elizabeth. Still no luggage.

The flight to Port Elizabeth was pleasant and heaved a sigh of relief to see the happy faces of District Governor Lionel Heath and his wife Maureen, Andy, Gay, Garreth, and Bob. Andy and Bob were very helpful and quickly inquired about our missing luggage. Much to our chagrin, the luggage had not made it to P.E.

It was an honor to have Andy and District Governor Lionel drive us to a shopping mall so we could purchase some clothes and other necessary items. After the shopping excursion, we drove to the nearby town of St. Francis Bay. District Governor Lionel had arranged for us to stay at a lovely vacation home belonging to a member of the Rotary Club of Port Elizabeth East. Annie and Dr. Smith cooked a quick but delicious meal of grilled cheese and soup.

Dr. Smith and Will Moody

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Putting the Whipped Cream on the GSE Cake!!

"Oops, I messed up again!"

"Okay Will, it can't be that bad - being with 5 women! So wake up;you have 5 weeks with 4 of them."

DG Mary giving us last minute instructions. What a great supporter she is!

"Annie, you behave and keep this team excited;I know you can do it."

Putting the Whipped Cream on the GSE Cake!!

Blog for Aug. 18 – 6th Training Session

Getting it right!! District Gov. Mary took time out of her extremely busy schedule (visiting clubs) and helped the GSE Team to S. Africa do its final preparation on Saturday, August 18th. Throughout the training, DG Mary has shown tremendous support for us and has continued to send us encouraging words. With much gratitude, we represent her and Rotary District 7770, the # 1 District in Annual Programs Fund giving in the world. What more could we ask for than to go with her blessing and the support from Rotarians all over our District!

Lights! Camera! Action! DG Mary and her professional crew set us up to be part of her District Conference video. There was only one hitch; standing outside with our formal uniforms on in the heat of the day. Would you believe 100 F!
But, we performed so well, that DG Mary said the first time was a hit. Thank goodness for those little favors. Look for us on the District Conference video and plan to attend the Conference in Myrtle Beach. Come and hear for yourselves what really happened in S. Africa.

Practice, practice, practice! That is what our advisor, Rick Melton- District GSE Coordinator, told us to do. We followed his advice with 3 practice sessions on
Saturday. “Okay Team, I suppose three times are enough!” “Rick you will be proud of us.”

God has chosen four great team members for whom I am thankful. As we leave, we each go with a passion to make a difference. My desire and prayer is that we develop a project between Districts 7770 and 9320 to serve aids orphans. Annie’s goal is to determine how she as a medical professional can contribute to the eradication of HIV/AIDS. Andrea desires to meet and understand the people and culture of S. Africa. As a law enforcement professional, Loretta’s goal is to understand and compare the criminal justice and law enforcement systems of both countries. It is her desire to contribute to the improvement of the systems in both countries. The young man on our team, Will, desires to investigate the use of technology in S. Africa’s educational system.

While each of us has his/her own goals, the team has become unified in its goal of “Service Above Self.” We will all be involved in visiting aids orphanages and determining what we can offer. There will be numerous opportunities because in S. Africa alone, there are 2.2 million aids orphans and 1.1 million of those are infected. Won’t you join us in praying that our GSE will prove beneficial for millions of children.

The Team departs from the Columbia Airport on Thursday, August 30 at 11:44 A.M. It would be great to have some of you come to our departure party and give us your blessing. Bob Montgomery has reserved the Carolina Center in the airport where we can meet, fellowship, enjoy some breakfast goodies and bid farewell to our families and friends. Meet us at the Delta Ticket Counter at 9 A.M. or come directly to the Carolina Center. We will leave the Carolina Center at 10:30 A.M.

Will you come and wish us “Bon Voyage” and encourage us as we leave to share Rotary in S. Africa?

Elizabeth Smith, GSE Team Leader

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Meeting 5.

Will listens as team members from the GSE to India speak.

Will and Loretta enjoy lunch.

Andrea organizes all the beautiful cards given to us by DG Mary.

Dr. Smith goes by the name "Picky Eunice" when it comes to lunch.

Annie keeps her eye on Rick's chocolate cake.

Meeting 5.

WOW! Time has really flown by for our GSE team since we began preparing for our incredible journey back in May. On the morning of Saturday, August 11, 2007, the team once again convened at Sumter Family Health Center, in Sumter, SC for its 5th meeting; only one more meeting to go before departure!
After our opening and prayer by Dr. Smith, we had the pleasure of receiving some “Words of Wisdom” from Past District Governor Bernie Riedel; or “PDG Bernie” as Dr. Smith likes to call him! J What a man of strong character and incredible knowledge! The team squirmed a little as PDG Bernie began to quiz us on many, many facts about Rotary International, District 7770, and the significant programs in which District 7770 is involved, including, but not limited to, C.A.R.T; Gift of Life; Dictionary Project; Youth Exchange; and Adopt-a-Club.
Following PDG Bernie’s charismatic educational session, the team received additional insight and guidance from past GSE team leaders Garry Powers (Australia), Bob Montgomery (India), and Rick Melton (Wales). GSE team member to India, Heather Hornsby was also present to offer suggestions and further wisdom about the GSE experience. We all learned a wealth of information from our invited guests and we are so very thankful that they took the time to meet with us! What a pleasure to have met each and every one of them. BIG THANKS TO ALL OF YOU AND GREAT JOB!! was “show time”, so with our audience set, we enlightened our invited guests with our GSE South Africa Team Presentation. Helpful comments and critiques were received about how to make the presentation the absolute best that it can be. As a team, we continued to work diligently through the early afternoon placing the final details on our presentation and practicing; WE’VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY!
Prior to concluding our “next to the last” meeting, we reviewed our packing lists, BLOG information, host family gifts, airline itinerary, departure plans, packets of information for our families and final reports. GSE team meeting #5 was busy, but we got it done! Five meetings down and only one to go; watch out South Africa, here we come!
-Annie GeddingsGSE South Africa Team MemberDistrict 7770

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

GSE Team Members

Dr. Raffia Elizabeth Smith - Retired Educator and GSE Team Leader
Conway, South Carolina

Andrea D'Arienzo - Physical Therapist
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Loretta Davis - Lieutenant with the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety
Orangeburg, South Carolina

Annie Geddings - Executive Director of Sumter Family Health Center
Sumter, South Carolina

Will Moody - Elementary School Guidance Counselor
Columbia, South Carolina

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Dr. Smith and Will enjoy their meal after a long drive up the mountain!
Paula Matthews, team leader for District 7770's GSE to Sweden, and her husband Ronnie joined the group to offer words of wisdom.
Andrea, Loretta, Annie, Will, and Dr. Smith have a moment of fun during the meeting.
The team discusses many important details.
Dr. Smith's husband, Dr. Ellison Smith, tells Loretta and Andrea about the black bear who visits the yard on occasion!

On the evening of Friday, July 13, 2007 the GSE South Africa team gathered at the beautiful mountaintop home of GSE Team Leader Dr. Elizabeth Smith and her husband Dr. Ellison Smith. Located in Bryson City, North Carolina, the Smith’s vacation home provided a restful backdrop for the team as they edited and refined their presentations. Ronnie and Paula Matthews of Columbia, South Carolina also joined the team. Paula Matthews was the team leader for a GSE to Sweden and had many words of wisdom for the South Africa group.

On Friday evening, the lively group enjoyed hotdogs cooked over a bonfire as Dr. Ellison Smith regaled the group with stories of black bears, snakes, and screech owls. The group retired early in order to prepare for a long day of work and play on Saturday.

On Saturday morning, GSE team members practiced their presentations and received constructive feedback from Dr. Smith and Mr. and Mrs. Matthews. Before lunch, the group was able to finalize many important details that will ensure a successful and organized GSE to South Africa.

Following a delicious lunch on the screened porch of the Smith’s home, the GSE team (along with Mr. and Mrs. Matthews) ventured down the mountain to go whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River! With the help of a trained guide, Andrea, Annie, Loretta, Will, Dr. Smith, and Mr. and Mrs. Matthews had a wild and wonderful time crashing through the 45 degree waters of the Nantahala! After a 2-hour adventure on the water, the tired GSE team made their way back to the mountain house where they enjoyed three different types of homemade lasagna provided by team member Annie. The evening ended with several fun card games that left team members in stitches!

On Sunday morning, the team enjoyed another delicious, homemade breakfast of fresh fruit and a casserole prepared by Dr. Ellison Smith. Following a brief but meaningful worship service conducted by Dr. Ellison Smith, the team rehearsed their presentations again. After Dr. Smith assigned team members a few items for “homework,” such as finalizing gifts for host families and having luggage tags printed, team members said good-bye.

I am certain that as each team member headed for home, his or her thoughts were on the great significance of the GSE to South Africa and how he or she can best fulfill the Object of Rotary – especially by promoting understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.

-Will Moody
GSE South Africa Team Member
District 7770

Three down and three to go!!! The Rotary District 7770 GSE Team has been involved in three training sessions and has three more to go before we board the plane for S. Africa. What can compare to the thrill of being involved in a Group Study Exchange??? “Nothing” will be the response you receive from all past GSE Team Leaders and members. At least that has been my experience. I feel so blessed and honored to have been chosen as Team Leader and am thankful that God has chosen four really super team members.

Let me introduce them to you.

Andrea D’Arienzo is a physical therapist with Conway Medical Center. She is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Carolina Forest Sunrise.

Loretta Davis is a Lieutenant with the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety. Loretta is sponsored by the Orangeburg

Annie Geddings is Executive Director of the Sumter Family Health Center. The Palmetto Rotary Club sponsors Annie.

Will Moody, a guidance counselor in Richland Two School District (Round Top Elementary School) is sponsored by the Spring Valley Rotary Club.

Our three previous training sessions have been exciting; we have had several people from S. Africa share about their country. Past GSE Team Leaders and members have given us lots of advice and helpful hints for a successful GSE.
Watch for our next blog and find out how we managed a bonding experience while white water rafting in the mountains of North Carolina

While GSE teams usually have many goals, our vision is to begin a district wide project for aids orphans. There are 2.2 million aids orphans just in S. Africa. 1.1 million of those children are infected. Most of these children are reared by siblings or grandparents. Many of them end up on the street to