Community engagement champions awarded at first virtual RUCE awards

Every year Rhodes University Community Engagement (RUCE) holds community engagement awards to recognise the hard work done by student volunteers, community partners, staff and donors. On Thursday evening, 26 November 2020, the University management, students, volunteers and community partners converged virtually to honour and celebrate the community engagement champions.

Among the attendees was the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs, Dr ‘Mabokang Monnapula-Mapesela, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Dr Peter Clayton, Dean of Faculty of Education, Professor Di Wilmot and RUCE Director, Ms Di Hornby.

Welcoming guests, Prof Wilmot said: “It is in the context of a state of a national disaster that we meet virtually and celebrate different community engagement activities, partnerships and accomplishments of 2020. We recognise and applaud all that has been done and achieved this year to bring about individual, social transformation and sustainable community development in Makhanda, Eastern Cape and nationally.”

Dr Mabizela said the event was held to acknowledge, honour and pay tribute to Rhodes University students who in their own very special ways have tried to make a difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate. “This is a special time in which we celebrate the spirit of volunteerism. That spirit of giving selflessly of oneself, one’s talent, skills, knowledge and without expecting any reward in return,” he said.

Ms Hornby applauded everyone involved in the community engagement this year. She said despite COVID-19 and the national lockdown, they could not let what they could not do interfere with what they could do. “We reimagined community engagement as a core function of the University. We mastered technology for the introduction of online community engagement modules. We called on the various community sites and university departments to step up with us into the crisis. We relied heavily on our community university partnerships to run education campaigns, food security initiatives, the making and supply of PPE for essential services in schools, online psycho-social support, community kitchen support, among other responses,” she explained.

The 2020 Community Engagement Award winners were:

Sports Club of the Year: Rhodes University Mountain Club
Community Partner of the Year: GADRA Education
Student Researcher of the Year: Theodore Orlando Duxbury
Student Volunteer of the Year: Claire McCann
Special Award – Outstanding First Time Volunteer: Daniel Proestas
Special Award – Outstanding Leadership: Katlego Mphahlele and Leboghang Nkambule
Current Community Engagement Councillor and incoming 2021 Student Representative Councillor (SRC) President, Leboghang Nkambule said she felt honoured to have received the special award. “It’s the first time that this has happened in the history of the SRC. Especially because it’s been a very challenging year – but through the collaborative work of the SRC and RUCE we have been able to be innovative and adaptive to continuously place community engagement and environmental sustainability at the core of the SRC. I will forever cherish this moment, as it shows how well we’ve managed to work together under the leadership of Katlego Mphahlele as the 2020 SRC,” she said.

Dr Mabizela congratulated all the winners and thanked them for being outstanding ambassadors of Rhodes University and its community engagement efforts. He also thanked the community partners for hosting student volunteers and allowed their facilities to provide students with a different learning space. “It is my hope that the student volunteer programme has inculcated in you the values and attitudes that will make you genuine leaders of our people. I also hope that your higher education at Rhodes University has cultivated and instilled in you democratic ideas, sound moral values and a sense of civic duty and social responsibility. It is my hope that when called upon to do so, you will accept your responsibility with humanity and embrace your role of personal agency in the remaking and reshaping of our society and the world,” he concluded.

Ms Hornby thanked Standard Bank, GBS Mutual Bank, BP South Africa Educational Fund, Standard Bank Thuthuka Trust, Nedbank Eyethu Community Trust and Oppenheimer memorial trust for their support this year.