Rhodes and community outreach

By Cairen Harry

For many, Rhodes has the reputation of being a place of partying, drinking and lots of late nights. But there is a lot more to it than that. Rhodes University, through its students and societies, is involved in an extensive community outreach programme which not only helps the wider Grahamstown community with funds and volunteer programmes but also raises awareness amongst the students.

The major focus of fundraising for 2006 was the Ikhaya Losizo project. This project is a student driven initiative to raise funds for the building of a safe house for neglected and abused children. Through various fundraising activities, the staff and students of Rhodes raised over R107 000 for the project. Various residences contributed funds as well as RAFSoc (Raising Awareness and Funds Society) but the major fundraising activities were the Give Five campaign and the campus-wide lunchtime fast in dining halls.

The annual Give Five campaign involved students donating just R5, either in residence or at various points around campus, towards the Ikhaya Losizo cause. The lunch fast saw over 500 students across campus unbooking their residence lunch meal and allowing the R11 they would have paid for it, which is the cost of one building brick, to go straight to Ikhaya Losizo.

Other events included a ‘Raise the Safe House party’ at the Old Gaol and various academic help lectures by SRC member Evan Ford, the entrance fees of which were donated to the Ikhaya Losizo fund.

Ikhaya Losizo’s Lara van Lelyveld said that the hard work and enthusiasm that Rhodes students had put into the project had made it a success. “Without Rhodes University and the Grahamstown community it would not have been possible,” said van Lelyveld.  The project will continue this year.

It is compulsory for all Rhodes societies to have a development section through which they make some kind of contribution to the wider community. For the sports societies, this often involves coaching underprivileged children as well as raising funds to buy them new and improved sports equipment.

“The outreach programme works in terms of funds”, said the Tennis Club head of development, Christie Alexander. “A club is given points for all the work that they are involved in and the more points you have, the more funds you are allocated the following year.”

“Most common are coaching programmes. Children from local, underprivileged schools are encouraged to come to the Rhodes campus in the afternoons and members of the club will coach them and organise games and small tournaments for them,” said Alexander. “Other clubs are more active in terms of fundraising, giving money to local charities or causes such as HIV/Aids. We also try and donate equipment where it is needed,” she said.

Most residences also have an allocated Charity or Community representative on the House Committee. Kirsty MacGregor, Walker house charity representative, explained that her responsibilities included leaving a box outside her room for clothes for Hospice, organising a Big Knit to try and create squares to be used in blankets and organising various other fundraising activities such as Cuppa for Cancer. Some Nelson Mandela hall residences also organised an Egg Beg around Grahamstown in order to collect food and goods for charity.

“It’s also about raising awareness and finding a need that you believe in,” said MacGregor. “We’ve got the energy. If we can just help out a little bit then we can make a big difference!”

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