By Karlien van der Wielen
Rhodes prides itself on the strides it is taking in terms of reaching out to the community around it. With the common concept of the “Rhodes bubble” being popped by official community engagement programs, students are also doing their utmost to get in touch and help out in the wider Grahamstown community. Many of them choose to go through the Student Volunteer Programme (SVP) offered by the Rhodes University Community Engagement (RUCE) office, which runs many different projects students can get involved with almost every week. Here’s a rundown of a few student societies you can join to do your bit in support of the community you live in as a Rhodent and Grahamstonian.
This society is geared mainly towards the installation of rainwater tanks in water scarce areas around Grahamstown. The name means ‘pour the water’ in isiXhosa. Considering the trouble our town has had with erratic and at times poor municipal services, some areas are vulnerable to cut-offs and water shortages. The society seeks to empower community members by increasing access to clean drinking water and working with them to bring about sustainable change. In September last year this society erected its 20th tank in five years. According to Diana Hornby, the director of Rhodes Community Engagement (RUCE), this society is so successful because of its strategic partnerships with like-minded societies and organisations. Galela Amanzi works with other societies and various community partners in order to raise awareness of the water shortage and install rainwater tanks around town.
Student society Masincedane started up a soup kitchen in 2006 with the aim of providing local school children with regular afternoon meals. The society formed a partnership with Cynthia Belwana, a local Grahamstown philanthropist, who had already been running a small, informal soup kitchen. Presently, Masincedane’s interests have expanded to a vegetable garden and bread-making, with the aim of providing healthy and nutritious organic food. The soup kitchen runs for three days of the week and feeds over 100 people. Student members help out at the soup kitchen once a week and tend to the vegetable garden that sustains the operation. They also organise various fundraising activities that help keep the initiative going. The overall aim is to develop the soup kitchen to the point where it is an independent community project.