"Ubunto" is the South African spirit of community. "It's like paying it forward," says Chaz Barracks, '11, who spent two months as an intern in Cape Town. "You do for someone what you'd want them to do for you."

During his internship with the Amy Biehl Foundation, Barracks developed an understanding of how South Africans strive to embody ubunto in everything from their daily interactions to their courts of justice.

"When something happens, they work it out as a community," Barracks says. "You're supposed to forgive. They work on integrating you back into society more than they work on punishment."

Rehabilitation and Reconciliation

Barracks, a criminal justice major and Bonner Scholar, went to South Africa in order to understand reconciliation on a personal and systemic level. The perfect example of this is the story of Amy Biehl, the namesake of the foundation where Barracks interned.

Biehl, an American, was killed in a township in post-apartheid Cape Town by an angry mob that targeted her because she was white. A few years later, her parents advocated for the release her killers.

The Biehls devoted their lives to eradicating violence fueled by misunderstanding. They started the Amy Biehl Foundation to allow at-risk youth to realize their creativity and their talents — empowering them to avoid violence and to be active members of their communities.

Now, a decade later, the foundation's Cape Town staff includes whites and blacks, Muslims and atheists, former bank managers and township-natives, including two of the men who killed Amy Biehl.

"What mostly drew me to this internship was that I didn't understand why," says Barracks about Biehl's parent's work. "I would never forgive the person who murdered my daughter. Until the day I walked into the office, I didn't understand why. I went in with the mindframe that I could never do this, I never will do this, and I want to learn how [Linda Biehl] did this."

One of Barracks' first lessons came as he got to know the two men, Easy Nofemela and Ntobeko Peni, who were nationalist soldiers when they killed Biehl 16 years ago. The men that Barracks befriended were completely rehabilitated, productive members of society with their own wives and children.

"It's not a part of them anymore" Barracks explains. "Their frame of mind is completely different now."

Connecting Principles with People

Through his internship, Barracks met people from all facets of Cape Town life. Teaching English and aerobics in the township, he interacted with kids who often didn't know where their next meals would come from. He set up meetings with attorneys and magistrates in the local court system. At festivals and events at the city's exclusive hotels, he met local celebrities like the governor and Taswell Papier (a lawyer known for his pro-bono work during apartheid) and even networked with Hillary Clinton and her staff.

Barracks' interactions with the gamut of South Africans led him to a deeper grasp of the nation's society, problems and approach to community. This gave him the understanding of reconciliation that he originally sought, as well as a renewed interest in introducing these principles to the U.S. criminal justice system.

"I've always had an interest in the criminal justice system and its needed reforms," he says. "I would love to work toward reconciliation and rehabilitation of offenders and be an advocate for equal justice."