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July was Nelson Mandela Month, a time when people around the world celebrate the life of former President, Nelson Mandela, by doing various acts of kindness for those who are less fortunate.

Driven by the principle of compassion, the DUT community put together its time, skill, and resources to support the babies at The Baby Home to contribute to making their lives better. For months, staff and students have been crocheting baby blankets to be donated to those who are in need, so that they can keep warm during this cold season. In celebrating the Mandela Month, the blankets were handed over to babies supported by The Baby Home. In total 10 baby blankets size, 90 X 90 cm were donated, with a retail value of R4 000.00 and has taken over 300 hours to produce.

Speaking more on the initiative, Ms Phumzile Xulu, a Community Engagement Practitioner, who is behind this initiative, saying that the making of Mandela Baby Blankets is an initiative that was created to encourage staff and students to learn the skill of crocheting and knitting. “Studies (Clave-Brule at al, 2009) have shown that crocheting and knitting have many health benefits. Once one gets beyond the initial learning curve, knitting and crocheting can lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” she said.

She stressed that knitting and crocheting are not only for old people anymore. She shared that learning this skill is useful to help follow instructions on complex craft projects which has proven to improve analytic and math skills. “Following the success in working with students and staff, we will be going to schools to teach primary school learners to learn this skill which will help improve their maths skill, while they produce products not only they can enjoy, but also they can sell – thereby teaching them about entrepreneurship,” she said.

The Baby Blankets were received by Ms Jo Teunissen, who thanked DUT for a generous donation. Ms. Teunissen is the co-founder and a crisis parent at the home. She said that the home looks after babies and toddlers between the age of zero and four, and little ones with special needs. “The items donated will go a long way in supporting these babies and other babies in different hospitals we work with,” she said. The Baby Home has been running a campaign to receive donations of 67 items they use most in their home, during July. The Community Engagement Office (under the DVC Research, Innovation and Engagement, Prof Sibusiso Moyo) in partnership with the Division of Corporate Affairs reached out to the DUT community to help with the campaign.

Generous donations were received from individual staff, students, and departments. Staff at the Department of Basic Medical Sciences (BMS) collectively pledged R2500 which was used to purchase baby nappies. “As a department, we have been inspired by the values encapsulated in ENVISION 2030 and wanted to find ways to actively live these values. Cognizant of the plight of many during this challenging time, we saw the Mandela day call as an opportunity for us to make a difference concretely and were especially touched by the work of The Baby Home,” said Prof Julian Pillay, HOD of the BMS department.

In tandem with stewardship and society, as articulated in the ENVISION 2030, the Human Resource Management Department donated 10 items to support The Baby Home initiative. The Advancement and Alumni Relations Unit has donated R50 000 towards this initiative and the funds will be used to reach out to more communities who need similar support.

All items collected were handed over to The Baby Home on 29 July 2020.

Professor Sibusiso Moyo, DVC: Research Innovation and Engagement, thanked all the staff and students that denoted to support babies at The Baby Home.

Pictured: Collected goods and blankets handed over to The Baby Home.

Phumzile Xulu

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