"Much Accomplished Abroad"

Australia, Rwanda, and Thailand

by Vusi Kweyama

The year 2011 has been one of the busiest years of my life. I traveled to three nations in the past six months. I made personal presentations to a number of diverse groups of people and companies, managed to see friends and partners whom I hadn't seen in many years, and consolidated cherished partnerships and friendships.

Those of you who already know me know how important it is for me to express my sincere thankfulness. I'll begin by declaring my heartfelt gratitude to those in the Monash Global Engagement office, thanking them for their tireless labour over the years. This office has been the driving force that has enabled me to earn a scholarship that provides me with university education at Monash South Africa, under the auspices of Monash University Fund for Education in Southern Africa (MUFESA). While in Australia, I was happy to assure them that their work is making a life-changing difference to the many people who become MUFESA scholars. I also thank Professor Tyrone Pretorius, Pro Vice-chancellor, Monash South Africa, for his behind-the-scenes backing of MUFESA.Vusi Kweyama expresses his thankfulness for the generous university scholarship he was awarded.

Beyond my active affiliation with Monash University, I've a long-standing relationship with people in Australia. My friends and partners throughout that continent continue to interact with me through an assortment of humanitarian projects, some of whom are now active within my community in the Valley of 1000 Hills, my homeland.

Personal ties between South Africans and Australians were consolidated through my interactions with different organisations and friends. Working with the “Inside the Big Picture” initiative based in Australia, we’re developing a film documentary of my life's story (photo left). This initiative’s aim is to highlight individuals who are changing their communities and promising to change the world. Its primary aim is to tell the stories of those people who, despite poverty and numerous social ills, continue to make significant changes in this world. I'm happy to show you my latest documentary.

When you are a young growing man, it's both exciting and humbling to be given a stage like the one I was given at Investec Bank's global investment office. I was glad to have been invited to speak one day at three of its Australian offices simultaneously by way of video conferencing. My presentation’s purpose was to strengthen the partnership between Monash University and Investec Bank. Having enjoyed my videoconference, officials there asked me to make another presentation at its main office in Johannesburg, South Africa. Thanks to Melinda Maskiell, Monash's Director of Capital Campaigns, and Advancement Vice President Ron Fairchild for their organising and being present on that day. It’s the simple things that confirm our legitimacy in the earth.

The well-known, 2007, South Africa-Australian music track, “Bullet & Target,” advocating social justice, was jointly produced by the Connection Choir, which originates from my valley, and BlissNEsso, the famous Australian hip-hop group. Although I'm not one of the professional singers, I'm happy to announce that you can hear me speaking on this track as I promote the need for social justice. When I was in Australia, I was given the chance to do the live performance in front of an approximate 5,000-strong crowd at Festival Hall in Melbourne. When the crowd went ballistic, it dawned on me that Australians love me as much as I love them.

South Africa, like many other nation states, was founded upon an unpleasant past. For any of us to understand and attempt to change the status quo, it's imperative to understand how South Africa has developed as a nation. Thankfully, as a result of the financial support that I received form Professor Stephanie Fahey, Monash University's deputy vice chancellor and vice president of Global Engagement, I was able to focus some of my studies (photo right) on apartheid in South Africa and genocide in Rwanda. The studies widened my understanding of the colonial and postcolonial states of South Africa, as well as the visible and invisible hands responsible for the claiming of millions of Rwandan lives during its 100-day period of genocide. They brought me to a place of conflict in my mind in terms of my understanding of colonial politics designed to exploit, facilitate conflicts through religion and greediness of the colonial masters. Most importantly, the study enhanced my passion for peace, stability, and social justice. My sincere gratitude goes to many, in no particular order: Professor Mark Baker; Professor Simon Adams; Doctor Marianne Hicks; Monash University; the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation that made available historic archives, which assisted my ongoing struggles to make ends meet and narrow the gap between “the haves” and “the have nots.”

Some of us can't live without doing something new that advances noble causes. My Australian trip contributed to the creation of the Monash Clayton fundraiser group, consisting of Monash students who contribute to our Beyond Self Scholarship Program. What’s more, this trip gave me the opportunity to meet and deliberate with a group of amazing people who've been organising a variety of dinner fund raisers for these worthwhile organisations: Vuk' Africa Trust Fund, which supports our Light Providers organisation; Beyond Self Scholarship Program; and Thokomala Children's Home.

Many thanks go to Andrea Pearman, Malcolm Beattie, and the team who helped raise more than R10,000 the day I presented, which will go towards buying a Taxi for our scholarship program and be used for other Vuk' Africa Trust Fund beneficiaries. Malcolm and Maureen Beattie also made a scholarship contribution that will enable two more children to go to school — for that, we at Vuk' Africa are very grateful.

I think it important for me to reveal to you the most important aspect of my trip to Australian: my studies. In the midst of my ongoing endeavors, I managed to pass all my semester units, for which I'm most grateful. I thank the Community Engagement Office in South Africa and MUFESA for keeping me in check. I'm excited by the prospect of finishing my degree this year and the possibility of doing my honours work in criminology, while I shape the future of Africa through Significant Impact Agency, our student organisation at Monash South Africa.

There's no better way to end these travels than to speak directly to young people, sharing ideas with those promising individuals on a mission to change the world. Australian Volunteer International (one of Light Providers and Vuk' Africa's partners) invited me to apply for the 2nd University Scholars Leadership Symposium 2011, held in Thailand and organised by Humanitarian Affairs. The symposium brought together, 343 young leaders from 37 countries, with the aim of educating youth about global humanitarian issues. I applied as a participating delegate but was asked to give a presentation (along with two other panel presenters shown in the accompanying photo) to the entire symposium. I described my experiences as a community development practitioner. Following my presentation, I received numerous Facebook friendship requests. My thanks again go to: Professor Stephanie Fahey for financially supporting my participation; Doctor Eugene Sebastian for facilitating the process; and Humanitarian Affairs London's initiative, 2nd University Scholars Symposium 2011, for reigniting my passion for social justice.

I'm also grateful to my many friends who made my stay in Australia a most pleasant one: Sheree Pluta, Katie Blundy and family, Megan and Luke, Chiara Lawry and family, Rita Zammit and family, Wesley Hetherington, Mia, Pedro, Dan Adams, Adam Jankie and BlissNEso, Monash University, Andy and Grace Aston, Lisa Scerri, Nick and Dawn Mackay, Leanne O’Donnell, Age and Sandra, Mike Nelson, Ruth and family, Daniel Brennan, Hugh Evans, Calvin Roy and Lisa Paola Taylor, Mitch Kay, and those whom I fail to mention not because they did not play a significant role, but because I'm growing old and my memory is starting to fail me all the time. However, I'm sure you know that I love and cherish our friendship.

Now better educated and significantly inspired, I look forward to my active engagements in 2013.