22 September 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Anja Aucamp
Every year, several of our staff and students are involved in projects in our community to make a positive difference. One of the projects where we are making a difference is at Bloemshelter.

I am because you are. Ubuntu. What better month do we have to celebrate our Ubuntu, our South Africanness, than September – Heritage Month. 

South Africans are known for their warm and generous spirit, their humanity. Closer to home, here at the University of the Free State, this is also a reality. 

Bettering the lives of others

Numerous staff members and students engage in community projects and partnerships. “As a regionally engaged university, the UFS supports development and social justice through the practice of engaged scholarship,” says Karen Venter, Head of the Division: Service Learning within the Directorate of Community Engagement.

Engaged scholarship occurs at the heart of community-university partnerships in close and co-operative interaction with several organisations in broader society for the common public good.

A few of the flagship partnership projects that come to mind are Bloemshelter (caring for the homeless and developing as a social enterprise); Towers of Hope (caring for the vulnerable and transforming the city); and the Princess Gabo Foundation (in Thaba ‘Nchu, where they obtained a zero teenage pregnancy rate in school with a simulating doll-parenting programme to initiate responsible reproductive health education). 

In Qwaqwa, Community Engagement partnerships involve the Itemoheleng Soy Project and the AGAPE Foundation for Community Development. Here, the development focuses on nutrition to boost people’s immune systems – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Moodi Matsoso from the Directorate: Community Engagement on our Qwaqwa Campus, the AGAPE Foundation is manufacturing rosehip juice, which helps with digestion and the healing of ulcers. 

Bishop Billyboy Ramahlele, Director of Community Engagement, is also passionate about sharing knowledge and skills regarding enterprise development to others, supporting them to reach their full potential with the building of tiny houses. 

According to him, an estimated 3 000 of our students are spending at least 127 000 hours per year engaging in the community through 73 academic service-learning modules, excluding the engagement of student organisations such as the Enactus UFS and co-curricular KOVSIE ACT (Active Civic Teaching) residential schools projects.

Vegetables for the food insecure

Another project that is making a difference not only in the lives of our students, but also for food-insecure families, is the UFS Community Garden Project. 

Kovsie ACT, in collaboration with Student Affairs and the university’s Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development and Extension (CENSARDE), is running a project where they provide fresh vegetables, including cabbage, carrots, beetroot, kale, and peas to food-insecure families. 

Heritage Month is an ideal opportunity for everyone to show their Ubuntu spirit. Get involved and share some of your time, your talents, and your treasures to improve the lives of others.  There are several causes in Bloemfontein and Phuthaditjhaba that need support (clothes, food, blankets, toys, funding). 

You saw what some of our colleagues and students are doing. What are you doing to make a difference in communities?

- See Mandala Day poster for a complete list of the partnerships, programmes, and projects where our university’s Directorate of Community Engagement is making a difference. 

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