Morgan Thompson is a student at Oregon State University studying Sociology and Psychology with a minor in Communications. During the winter of 2015, she decided to intern with IE3 Global in South Africa. Most of the work that she completed was centered around Human Rights and the political history of South Africa. Read on learn more about her life-changing experience!
One of my most memorable days in Cape Town was a very physically and emotionally straining day. This was the day I visited Robben Island. Robben Island is the Alcatraz of South Africa. It is internationally known for the fact that Nobel Laureate and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 of the 27 years he served behind bars before the fall of apartheid. Kgalema Motlanthe, who also served as President of South Africa, spent 10 years on Robben Island as a political prisoner, as did the current President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma.
Our tour began with a forty minute boat ride from the downtown waterside of Cape Town out to the island. We were fortunate enough to get seats on the smaller jet boat that made much faster time! The first half of the tour was by bus around the island showing off the different prison sections, the housing for the guards and officials, the nature scenes of the island, and the Leper sections. Robben Island was also where people suffering from leprosy were sent for many years to be kept in isolation from the general population.
The second half of the tour was through the actual prison. This section was led by a former political prisoner who had spent 18 years of his life in this prison. It was heart wrenching to hear of the torture and abuse that these individuals who were fighting for freedom, equality, and the end of Apartheid faced. It was especially powerful to hear the story from a former prisoner and really made me realize how recent these events transpired. It really made me think how fortunate I was to be born into the circumstances I was and the sacrifices many people made to make that possible.
This was a very humbling experience that really made me realize that a violation to human rights anywhere is a violation of human rights everywhere, and that it is our responsibility to learn from the mistakes of the past. This experience gave me the courage and motivation to change my career focus and spend my life making the world a better place for all.
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