Photo courtesy of Loren Friesen

My coworker, Tamasha, and I sell crafts made by RSS clients at an outdoor weekend market

Through MCC’s Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program, young adults from Canada and the U.S. are immersed in another culture for a year as they serve in fields such as education, agriculture, health care and more. Meet one participant who is currently serving in Durban, South Africa.

 

Name: Loren Friesen

Age: 23

Hometown/Home Church: Fresno, California/ Mennonite Community Church

SALT Location and Assignment: Durban, South Africa. Communication Administrator at Refugee Social Services (RSS).

people here have this depth of joy and vibrancy that bounces off each other and is experienced when they come together"

Why I applied to SALT: After graduating from college there is often the expectation of starting a career as soon as the graduation hat touches the floor. Although I feel committed to be a storyteller, what specific form that will take is still up for grabs. I figured a volunteer term with SALT would allow me to explore an aspect of communications without feeling the weight of it being a career commitment. On top of that, volunteer work is something I've eluded while being busy with soccer and studies when in undergrad, so I felt it was about time to offer what I can provide to an organization that does its best to be intentional with its partners.


MCC photo/Loren Friesen

Typical day during SALT: Durban is such an energetic and happening place, so it is hard to pinpoint a "typical" schedule, but the basic layout of my routine is to start by waking up at 5 AM. Prepare my breakfast and pack my lunch. Take public transport to a gym in town and work out for an hour. Shower. Walk 10 minutes through Durban's busy, bustling downtown to work, where there is usually news articles to share, photographs to take, events RSS hosts that I need to cover, film to edit. After work I keep things varied: hang out at a coffee shop, go to the beach, go for a run, play soccer, run errands at a mall, or simply relax at home. I finish the day by eating dinner with my host, and decompress by reading, or editing my own media, or watching a downloaded show. 

 

The biggest challenge for me: Being patient. Patient in a professional sense as I learn and develop my skills in communications, wanting to have everything figured out and under my belt overnight. Patient with my excitement as I want to explore the depths and breadth of Durban, often forgetting it takes time to seriously engage in even just one activity. Patient with relationships, both with those at home who I've (we've) had to temporarily adjust our patterns of connecting and also with those here who will naturally take some time to co-build our own connection. And even patient with WiFi at work, although that should be sorted sometime soon in 2020. 


MCC photo/Loren Friesen

What brings me the most joy: On a personal level, I've been very happy with the variety of physical activity I've been able to do because of what Durban offers: soccer, running, surfing, hiking, biking. But beyond that, what's been perhaps even more joyous to experience is how strikingly rich and colorful an event becomes when a community brings itself together. I've seen it at weekend markets, I've seen it at courtyard lunches, I've even seen it at a braii (barbeque) on the beach; people here have this depth of joy and vibrancy that bounces off each other and is experienced when they come together, mostly obviously seen and expressed through music and dance. There is no lukewarm celebration of community, and it's been immensely joyful to feel the flow of positive energy that runs through everyone when it happens.

 

What I am learning about myself: Connected to the biggest challenge for me, I think relaxing and allowing myself to enjoy and soak in the moment has been something that I've had to remind myself over and over to do. There is a lot to do and see in Durban so I often feel like there's something else I could be doing and that I could be using my time better. I need to remember I have plenty of time, and that I should appreciate each event, each place, each moment rather than thinking about what else could be out there. It's about striking a balance between continuing to be curious and explorative while appreciating what I'm currently engaged with. 


MCC photo/Loren Friesen

I see this program as a fantastic and unique opportunity to broaden your horizon in beautiful ways and on many different levels"

To anyone considering SALT: To travel and volunteer, especially for a year, when you are married, settled, and have a family is not impossible but not usually done in the same way when you are a bit younger. I see this program as a fantastic and unique opportunity to broaden your horizon in beautiful ways and on many different levels. With that being said, there will also be challenges that are expected and unexpected. It requires adaptability, patience, and an open mind, all of which are much easier to say to have than actually have. For me, the program offers a deal that is absolutely worth it and I can testify that it has been a positive experience, but I would encourage one to try to understand their self as best as possible in order to get the most out of a program like this.

The remaining months I have left with SALT I wish to: Three things: Surf more. Do more personal photography (preferably at sunrise). Take a dance class!

 


MCC photo/Loren Friesen

Serving And Learning Together (SALT) is a unique year-long cross-cultural immersion experience for Christian young adults from the U.S. and Canada, ages 18-30, sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

We are currently accepting applications for any young adults interested in being immersed in another culture, living with host families or communal settings such as dormitories or teacher housing in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin and Central America and the Middle East.

For more information, visit mcc.org/SALT or contact Thomas Adlard, West Coast MCC Young Adult Coordinator, at ThomasAdlard@mcc.org.