Following a presentation to chapter members and two years of prayer and planning, members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Eta Nu Omega San Bernardino/Riverside Chapter, completed its pilgrimage to the Motherland during the month of March 2015 with an itinerary started in London, England, and continued to Cape Town, South Africa, Chobe Safari Lodge, Botswana, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and Johannesburg, South Africa, along with thirty-nine member group included eighteen Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority members, representing chapters from California, Maryland, Illinois, and North Carolina.
The development of the trip began as a vision of local chapter members, Annette Weathington, Immediate Past President, and Shalimar Horsley, Global Poverty Chairman, both of Eta Nu Omega Chapter who had visited South Africa in 2011 and 2013, respectively, with tour group, Mahogany Vacations, an African American owned travel company. While touring in Africa, the ladies easily noted the beauty and rich culture of the people, but the deprivation in countries where the economies boast some of the world’s highest levels of unemployment, poverty, and medical challenges had a much greater impact. The deplorable conditions were a reminder of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s commitment to address the issues of global poverty; Eta Nu Omega Chapter members eagerly embraced the challenge that Shalimar proposed with the cooperation of Mahogany Vacations owner, Perez Melhado a life changing “vacation with a purpose” was organized by the pair.
Visits to Baphumelele children’s home, founded by Rosalie “Mama Rosa” Mashale in 1989, for orphaned children ages 0-18, and the Iliso Care Society, a soup kitchen founded by activist Vivian Zilo in 2005, provide services to underserved children. Both organizations are located in the Khaylitsha Township where they provide services to underserved children. The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority members, the members of the Mahogany Vacation staff, and the other tour guests collectively donated food, clothing, diapers, personal hygiene items, toys and other supplies, as well as monetary donations.
Other highlights of the trip included a visit to Robben Island where President Mandela and other political activists were imprisoned, participation in several African safaris, a tour of Cape Town vineyards, a walking tour through the glorious Victoria Falls, and a visit to District Six, a former inner-city residential area in Cape Town, South Africa, where over 60,000 inhabitants were forcibly removed during the 1970’s by the apartheid regime. Tours of Nelson Mandela’s presidential home, as well as his Soweto home, the Apartheid Museum, and the Iziko Museums Slave Lodge was additional highlights that contributed to the experiences of the group.
Local presiding Eta Nu Omega Chapter president, Tiena Johnson-Hall stated, “Our objective was to do more than tour different African countries, we wanted to witness and better understand the history of the countries we visited and to provide support for two grass-roots projects that were actively making a difference in the lives of the people in those communities. Service to mankind is a key component of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s principle goals, so participating in a cultural tour that included a giving back element is quite rewarding on many levels.”