When I found out that I was going to South Africa, the first thing on my do to list was to go to Robben Island. After hearing about Nelson Mandela’s life during my youth, I knew that one day I wanted to visit Robben Island to see what he experienced.Costing about $30, I had the opportunity to see and relive what Mandela and many prisoners experienced at Robben Island during the apartheid. Visitors take a boat ride to the island and then are given a bus tour of the entire island.
It is interesting, because in present time, the island is like a little city outside of Cape Town. Many families live on the island. In fact, there’s a post office there, school, many churches, and more. It is quite interesting. It is also quite interesting that former prisoners give tours of the jail that Mandela and hundreds of others spent many years of their life.
Consequently, after the bus tour, visitors and I gathered inside one of the prison facilities where a former prisoner spoke with us about his experience in the prison. It is quite to think that prisoners relive their experience almost every hour of every day to those who come to see Robben Island. In many cases, prisoners often have to do this profession, because of the lack of jobs in South Africa. It is almost as if they have no choice. More over, with the high poverty rates in South Africa, many Africans have not even had the opportunity to go to Robben Island due to its cost.
Yet the positive message that I gained from the prisoner who led my tour is that as human beings we can use our negative experiences to inspire others to be the change that we wish to see in the world. We need to realize that we should never have to allow negative experiences to cripple us. We should also realize the impact that our lives could possibly have on another human being.
I really do believe that Mandela’s life is the epitome of this, which is why so many people crave to see his cell. They crave to see where he once was in order to realize that any person can overcome horrible situations in their lives. For me, seeing his cell helped me even more to understand his drive to impact the world. It’s incredible to see his journey and how he has become the inspiring person that he is known as to the world today.
There is one thing I want to say before I end this post. I was angry leaving Robben Island. Not just for what happened during the apartheid, but also for how the world is still today. I realize that the world may never be perfect, but from the thousands of visitors who come to Robben Island every day, I would hope that many of the injustices, like racism issues, that are still present today would be dissolved. I would think many people who not just inquire to the prisoners about their experiences, but to use the knowledge they have gained from this experience to stop injustice and discrimination within the world.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I definitely do not want my experience going to Robben Island to go in vain. I want to inspire you and others to strive to be the change you wish to see within the world. Mandela shows that even through just one person, great change can come. However, every individual must be willing to be a leader and to start the change that is possible.
I am willing to do this, but I end this asking you: are you?