The BYU Young Ambassadors theme for the year, “Live, Laugh, Love,” has prompted group members to prepare for their spring tour to South Africa and Zimbabwe by promoting this concept on campus and during rehearsals. “The group is not just focused on entertainment—that’s only one part,” says Young Ambassadors member Jacob Brown. “We try to walk the walk.” According to Brown, group members have tried to constantly ask themselves, “How can we live, laugh, and love during this year so we can prepare for our trip?”
For the third time in the group’s 46 years of touring, Young Ambassadors will journey to South Africa to perform, serve, and learn. From April 23 to May 13 this year, they will travel to Durban, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, and Pretoria as well as Bulawayo and Harare in Zimbabwe, where they will give 13 performances and participate in several outreach and service activities. From exchanges with local university students to a visit to an elephant sanctuary, members of Young Ambassadors will be able to experience an unfamiliar culture while sharing their universal message of love.
Members of Young Ambassadors have asked alumni what to expect from the tour to South Africa. Those who toured to South Africa in spring 2012 say the trip was a life-changing experience. During the last tour there, Young Ambassadors visited Children of Fire, a home for burn victims, and Rainbow Village, a hospice for orphans and adults affected by HIV/AIDS. During these visits, performers and crew played games, gave out lollipops and books, taught dances, and shared music. “Every touring experience is so unique and helps you understand that all people are in need,” says Tanner DeWaal, Young Ambassadors student president. “We’re human beings, and we all have basic wants. . . . As we’ve gone to places that lack love, we see the world needs more love. That’s what we hope to bring. It gives more hope for the future.”
DeWaal, who has been a member of Young Ambassadors for four years, is preparing diligently along with the rest of the group to fully immerse himself in the culture. He says understanding what matters to the people they meet will make the tour a better experience for everyone. “I’m paying attention to things happening in the news and studying . . . so it’s already a part of me when I get there,” he says. “I’ll be able to relate and have a better understanding about what’s going on. Once I get there, I want to be completely invested in the people and not take any moment for granted.”
All tour participants—performers, band members, technicians, and directors—will attend a required culture class on the history, politics, people, and culture of South Africa and Zimbabwe. This 12-week class, counted as academic credit for students, will prepare the performers and crew for the experience through the study of books, movies, and local and international news sources. In an effort to learn about the cities the group will travel to, students will research and give presentations to the class on different cities’ art, architecture, social and cultural background, and traditional stories. Once on tour, the students are required to keep a daily journal of the experiences they have and the people they meet, recording their personal experiences as well as referencing cultural and historical elements they studied in class.
While on tour, members of Young Ambassadors will have the chance to meet with high-profile members of society. These meetings between performers and community members before performances will encourage a “personal connection to what’s happening on stage,” says DeWaal. These VIPs could also open doors to future opportunities for Young Ambassadors, he says.
“The experience of getting to know the people of [South Africa and Zimbabwe] is life changing,” says Young Ambassadors director Randy Boothe. “Our upcoming tour will be a remarkable chance to develop friendships that will last a lifetime.”