Rainbow Nation 101

(There is more to South Africa than apartheid and scary public health statistics)

The geographic bottom of the African continent

Click on the map for a larger view

As the unambiguous name indicates, the Republic of South Africa composes the bottom of the African Continent. It is almost twice as large as Texas and has the 5th largest population in Africa (about 52.98 million in 2013). While South African history begins before written records existed, it technically became a unified country in 1994. Peace Corps entered the country in 1997 and currently facilitates three programs in South Africa: Education, Health, and Peace Corps Response. The health sector program which Katey supports is called the Community HIV Outreach Program (CHOP). CHOP partners volunteers with faith-based or Non-Governmental Organizations to address HIV/AIDS related needs in Mpumalanga, Kwa-Zulu Natal, and Limpopo provinces.

In other words, South Africa is beautiful, diverse, and growing nation that has persevered through a variety of social issues from the beginning of humankind. My introduction to South Africa was through the movie Cry Freedom in a high school contemporary issues class and the scene of Steve Biko’s funeral when they sing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (the first part of South Africa’s national anthem) gives me goose bumps every time. Yes like any nation, history has left some painful legacies, but that scene reflects the resilience of South African people. I hope you also eventually see the ubiquitous potential in the Rainbow Nation.

If you are into statistics here are general South African demographics and how they compare to the United States (but numbers alone do not define South Africa or any country).

Required Recommended Reading for Rainbow Nation 101:

  • Long Walk to Freedom: Nelson Mandela
  • My Traitor’s Heart: Rian Malan
  • Country of My Skull: Antjie Krog

Other Peace Corps South African Perspectives

  • Power Lines: Jason Carter

Tour Books:

  • Insight Guide to South Africa
  • Rough Guide to South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

-Marie Curie

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