YFU South Africa virtual Anniversary reunion
May 07, 2021 12:57
What do you do when you have been in a pandemic for over a year, you are unable to travel, you have not seen most of your YFU friends and volunteers for a while, but you have not only one but TWO big reasons to celebrate? That’s right – you organize a virtual YFU Anniversary Reunion!
As we all know, YFU is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. What many of you may not know is that YFU South Africa – which is currently the only active YFU organization on the African continent – celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Well, to be honest, we did not exactly celebrate it. In fact, we pretty much forgot about it because we were busy dealing with a global pandemic, having to repatriate our students, and trying to score toilet paper and hand sanitizer at our local supermarkets.
But this year, things are different. Not only have we returned to some form of normal daily life (well, at least here in South Africa), but we have found new and creative ways to connect with the many members of our YFU family. Of course it is always more fun to sit around a table or a bonfire, share some delicious food and beverages, and laugh about those hilarious stories that usually start with ‘when I was on exchange…’. But we live in the age of Zoom, Skype, Teams and Google Meets and as annoying as they sometimes are, the nice thing about these platforms is that they allow us to connect not only with people who live in our immediate vicinity, but with long-lost friends who live on the other side of the world.
With this in mind, YFU South Africa decided to host its first virtual Anniversary Reunion which took place on the 20th of April. Invitations had been sent out to inbound and outbound alumni, host families, volunteers, and staff members, and various calls had been shared on social media. To be honest, we were a bit hesitant about this new format – would people show up? Would it just be our ‘usual suspects’? Would we end up sitting in front of our screens and awkwardly sip our respective glasses of wine by ourselves?
Fortunately, the reunion was a success and over 30 members of the YFU South Africa community joined us from Europe, Latin America and, of course, South Africa. Exchange alumni from the 1990s and 2000s, as well as from our more recent programme years, volunteers and former staff members who had moved abroad, and of course some of our current volunteers joined the party.
The event included a welcome by our vice chairman and founding member Hans Strijdom, a storytelling session, a walk down memory lane with pictures spanning the 25 years of YFU South Africa’s existence, a look into the future of our organization, and, of course, numerous toasts and even a virtual birthday dance (which can be admired here).
It was truly special to reconnect with the members of our YFU family near and far and we can’t wait for the next edition – be it virtual, in person, or a mix of the two. We hope that our little experiment will inspire other YFU organizations to launch similar events and to celebrate this special year as one global community!
by Lena Gronbach| YFU South Africa National Director