The spirit of Community Engagement blazes on at UJ

​​A problem solving initiative, a fundraising venture and the promotion of positive thinking are all part of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Student Volunteers’ Projects aiming to transfer knowledge, skills, compassion and care to the benefit of the greater community.​
After presenting to the management of the Community Engagement Department, five UJ Student volunteers walked away with laurels at a projects day hosted by the University’s Community Engagement (CE) Department on Friday, 10 October 2014. Established in 2012, the showcase is an initiative which aims to promote projects initiated by UJ students in disadvantaged communities. “We want to fund and groom good and sustainable projects, eliminating ‘once-off win and gone’ projects that will not really help communities. We help these projects get better and get into people’s lives and sustain them,” said Ms Enerstine Meyer-Adams, CE Manager.The winning project leaders will present at the IMBIZO at Soweto Campus, where all the CE student volunteers are awarded prizes for having contributed their time, efforts and skills to community work. They must have worked 80 hours and more to be awarded a prize. “It is good to see young people giving back with such love and enthusiasm and aiming to build our future leaders through community work,” said Ruth Lehoka, CE Specialist.
The Chessmasters’ team embarked on a community outreach project that aims to empower the minds of the youth at Leratong Primary School in Orlando, Soweto. The project uses chess to teach discipline, problem solving skills and how to deal with sociological and psychological problems. These initiatives are related to the learners’ mental growth and help take them off the streets. One of the volunteers, Nyiko Mashinini, a second year Business Information Technology student said: “We use chess to make changes in the lives of the learners who are experiencing problems, help them build their characters and boost their self-esteems. We need to increase our members as well as expand transporting means so that we may be able to run the project simultaneously in different communities.”
A more than satisfactory second prize was for a fundraising venture entitled Rand A Shoe, the community outreach project that boosts the confidence and esteem of primary school learners by giving them school shoes. The group collects R1 donations in communities and on campuses (from stores and students) to buy school shoes for learners in disadvantaged communities. The three students were touched by a number of primary school learners who walk long distances to school. Some of them end up not going to school due to not having shoes. Speaking on behalf of the team, Precious Ndaba, a first year BCom Finance student, said that they believed that when a learner was confident, the learner became motivated to do good, but when a learner did not shoes, he or she developed no courage to go to school. “Our vision is not to provide shoes only, but to also add uniforms to the initiative. We would like to see this project active for years to come and see our fellow colleagues play a significant role in improving the standards of living in communities. The funds will assist in growing our initiative and get more uniform for other learners,” said Ndaba.
Believers and Achievers took third place. The project aims to promote positive thinking amongst high school learners by helping learners make the right subject choices in grade nine and choosing the right tertiary institution when applying for further education. This group of 14 students puts its focus on both rural and urban schools where pupils have no guidance in making the right career choices. They also give the pupils application forms and prospectuses, enabling the learners to apply to further their studies. Lebogang Mashegoane, a BCom Economics student who is one of the members of the group said: “The challenge we are currently facing is getting funds for school visits in rural areas. The funds we will get from the prize will go towards covering transport and printing out of materials for the schools.”
The showcase is solely aiming to encourage Ubuntu: “We cannot live without helping other people. Our society needs people who can take a step forward and make a change,” said Rendani Tshivhula, CE student volunteer ambassador.
The projects take the primary education, poverty and hunger pillars of the CE structure in order to fulfill their vision and mission. With the annual showcase, the CE Department aims to groom young people who have the potential to turn their communities around and give back to the needy. The students come from campus societies, residences, leadership groups and individual community projects. The CE unit adopts these projects and gives a hand in developing their implementation and aid with necessary resources.​
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