Greenberg finds purpose traveling to Swaziland

By Laura Gallagher
August 24, 2012

Having courage, determination and empathy are three things Melanie Greenberg, senior communication major, gained in order to travel to a small country called Swaziland, a trip that would not be forgotten.

First, let’s take a few steps back.  Greenberg first entered Cabrini unsure of what her purpose was and how she was going to leave her mark. Sophomore year she joined the college newspaper, the Loquitur and by spring semester started feeling more involved.

“I finally felt like I was doing something,” Greenberg said. She practiced reporting skills and wrote stories that she was interested in, finding her niche in journalism.

She developed an interest in Swaziland while watching a presentation in an ECG class. She felt conflicted after learning about the country because she wanted to help but wasn’t sure how.
“I started e-mailing different professors that went to Swaziland asking if it was possible that students could visit, and no one really had an answer,” she said.

During her junior year of college, Greenberg met with Cabrini’s president Dr. Marie George and told her this was the first real passion she had developed – that Swaziland made her feel like she had a purpose.

The following April, she received an e-mail from Dr. Anne Skleder, provost and vice president for academic affairs, asking to meet in her office. She was asked to go to Swaziland that May and she immediately said yes.

“I had to get vaccinations and prescriptions for things like malaria and pack lightly.” Needless to say, in a short amount of time there wasn’t a moment to waste.

The day finally came and after 24 hours of traveling, she landed in Swaziland along with Skleder and Dr. Edna Barenbaum of the psychology department. All of the children knew they were coming and anticipated their arrival.

“The first thing they did was pinch our skin because they weren’t used to seeing white skin,” Greenberg said. “I had pinch marks for the first five days I was there.”

Melanie experienced a lot during her two-week stay, but when she learned about the agriculture of Swaziland it really opened her eyes. “There is so little rain there, so their soil is really bad and they can’t grow crops that well,” Greenberg said. She helped make beds and learned the proper technique for digging into the soil.

Another profound memory of the trip was being able to bond with the children. She was able to observe some classes that the kids took and see what they were learning. “I sat through the math class and I had taken that math senior year of high school and had no idea what was going on. The teachers moved so fast.” She gained much respect for them.

Towards the end of her trip there was a boy named Umbilo who really made an impact on her when he said, “I pray to God every night that he’ll take me away and get me to Cabrini, I just don’t know why he won’t answer my prayers.” This was the first time Melanie’s emotions got ahold of her, and she cried.

After this moment she started to think about her own life and how lucky she was to get an education. In America there is hope that things can get better if you try really hard, but in Swaziland, it’s very different. “I have been taking advantage of the education I get at Cabrini,” Greenberg said.

When she first came to Cabrini she used to talk about how she hated the school yet she has been able to do so much more than these children will be able to do.

“I’ve never met a happier group of people. They are always singing, always dancing and by the end of the trip I felt so welcome and was sad by not getting woken up at 5:30 a.m. by the children doing their chores. They are so grateful and don’t take anything for granted.”

Going to Swaziland changed Melanie’s perception of the way she views life. Learning about a new culture and getting the opportunity to travel to Swaziland has made her not take anything for granted. “There are some days I really have to remind myself what I learned. It’s so easy to fall back into being whiny and materialistic and just not caring,” she said.

When she first started at Cabrini, Greenberg dreamed of being an Eagles sideline reporter. She now has a different outlook on life. “I want to travel after I get my Master’s degree for international development because I want to understand what is going on in the world.”

Laura Gallagher

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