The Westside Health Authority's Good Neighbor Campaign is organizing an immersive trip to Cape Town, South Africa, in spring 2020.
Targeted to young people ages 16 to 24, Good Neighbor Campaign is also inviting family members and anyone else from the community to go on the one-week trip, which will take place from April 4 to April 11, 2020.
The trip – which costs $1,750 for a double room and $2,350 for a single – will include hotel stay for six nights, tours of local areas and a visit to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held behind bars for 18 years. In addition, air fare is expected to cost about $1,500.
Thirteen people have signed up as of this week and there's room for up to 40 travelers. Registrations are being accepted until Oct. 31.
Felisha Reed-Bolden, administrative assistant at Good Neighbor Campaign, said it's a great opportunity for young people from the West Side to explore the heritage.
"We just want to enrich and teach them about their culture," Reed-Bolden said. "They see a lot of negative things on a daily basis, and this a life-changing experience for them."
Since 2014, Good Neighbor Campaign has offered a number of programs, from organized sports such as baseball to a youth council that offers service opportunities for young people.
Now, with the trip to Cape Town, Reed-Bolden said participants will get a chance to see another part of the world for the first time.
"This will be something historic," Reed said. "Everyone is excited, a little nervous, and just looking forward to being in our homeland."
Along with partners Crystal Dyer, founder and executive director of Gone Again Travel Agency, 5940 W. Chicago Ave., and state Rep. La Shawn Ford, Good Neighbor Campaign hopes this can be an opportunity for people to learn about the history of apartheid and learn more about the experiences of Mandela. Both Dyer and Ford will also be making the trip.
Dyer is the founder of Chicago Youth Austin Travel Adventures, a non-profit that provides "travel and learn" scholarships for foster care and justice-involved youth; this last year Dyer took a group a young people from Austin on their first trip to Ghana, West Africa.
"Westside Health Authority knows that I already had a reputation for providing such journeys; that's why they came to me for help," Dyer said. "This will help kids go on this journey, to really look at their own life."
"Knowledge is power," said BreShawn Wilkerson, 21, youth coordinator for the trip, who believes that showing the legacy of Mandela "can inspire someone that's young with dreams, passions and goals to do something positive" like changing their community.
Westside Health Authority, with Rep. Ford's assistance, holds an annual Mandela birthday celebration on July 18, Nelson Mandela International Day.
"Many times African Americans don't know the exact place they come from," Ford said. "There is a sense of pride and culture that is in Cape Town, and we need to make sure young people are able to learn their history – where they could have come from."
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