DUT students in partnership with the University of California, Davis have been involved as part of a two-week student’s exchange programme headed by Prof Monique Marks from DUT and Prof Chris Benner from UC, Davis. They have been handling three community upliftment projects within the communities of Kenneth Gardens, William Clark’s Children Home and the KwaDabeka community.
Dr Kira Owen from the Urban Future Centre elaborated on how the project conceptualised.
“It was a two week project which was held in accordance with the University of California’s Summer Abroad programme. The 17 students included 11 from the University of California, Davis and 6 students from DUT. The students were then grouped to work at one of the three communities and each group was tasked to write about their work experience in those communities,” she said.
Mzwandile Khumalo, a third- year DUT homeopathy student, was helping out at the William Clarke’s home which is situated in Sherwood, and accommodates 50 children who have suffered abuse.
“Holiday time is the hardest for these children as most of them have nowhere to go. At the age of 18 a child starts to develop a clear sense of independence, and living in the home restricts their sense of freedom since they are not allowed to leave unaccompanied. However, I think it is important we find somebody who can help them with life skills. It is just sad that they have to leave at the age of 18. I enjoyed spending time with them as they are smart, talented students who just need a chance in life,” said Mzwandile.
Rhia Borden from UC, Davis found the experience wonderful and thoroughly enjoyed bonding with the kids.
“They each have memory boxes where they can right down how they feel and all the bad things that have happened to them, some of them shared with us stuff they have never told anybody and they knew they could trust us it would be great if DUT can carry own helping out, maybe even start a mentorship programme.”, said Rhia.
Sarah Pnano and from UC, Davis, spoke about her community project at Kenneth Gardens. “Kenneth Gardens is a poverty stricken-community. It is the remains of the post apartheid housing system. There is a soup kitchen in the community, for the homeless people and volunteers from around the area help out with this. A Samaritan called mama Khanyi, who works at the Senzokuhle clinic, spends all her time helping others in the community. She visits the sick and elderly and cleans and feeds them; we captured this all on camera and want to use this video footage to appeal to the public internationally, to help out,” said Sarah.
Third- year Architecture student Thandeka Sihlali’s group worked with the municipality, designing a centre that caters for the community.
“Our aim was to build a hostel that will consist of a library, aftercare centre and a mobile clinic. We also got a chance to interact with the community and play with the children which was very fulfilling. I must say all the stakeholders were impressed with our presentation. Personally, I would like the integration of students in community projects to be added to DUT’s syllabus. This project allowed me to look through the eyes of international students and not take our lives for granted,” she said.
Going forward, Dr Erwin said the outcome of the project was very successful and the communities involved were pleased with the help provided by the students. She also added that there was a possibility that these projects would be ongoing in time to come.
– Philiswa Xulu
Pictured: 17 Students including 11 from the University of California, Davis and 6 students from DUT, are part of a two-week student’s exchange programme.