Within days, we handed over our first contribution of R10 000 to the Jakes Gerwel Education, Endowment and Development Fund. On 31 October 2014, we elected an executive committee and the UWC UAE Alumni Chapter was born! Our executive members are Francis Fourie (Chairperson), Danville Fourie (Vice-Chairperson), Leonie Begbie-Cloete (Treasurer), Janie Ross (Secretary), Renay Abrahams (Membership Secretary), Joseph Dennis (PRO) and Carol Adams (additional member).
After our first executive meeting, we had our first fundraiser, a thoroughly enjoyed braai at the Sands Golf Course on 18 April 2015. Bowing to demand, we had another successful gathering at the venue on 10 October 2015. We held our first gala dinner on 11 December 2015 at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel in Dubai where we proudly handed over a donation of R50 000 for the Jakes Gerwel Education, Endowment and Development Fund to the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius.
The highlight of 2016 was definitely our camping adventure. Alumni trekked to Al Ain with their tents to enjoy a wonderful night of fish frikkadels, South African boerewors and nostalgia around a campfire. The chapter joined a member who had been donating socks and shoes to learners in Elsies River and raised R6 500, which ensured that a Grade 4 class had enough shirts, socks and shoes.
In 2017, the UAE implemented a federal law prohibiting any fundraising and appealing for donations. All donations by the UAE Chapter then had to be made through personal contributions from our members, who have been remarkably generous. We supported a project started by alumnus Quinton Adams which replaces shacks, in the Freedom Farm informal settlement near Belhar, with wooden houses. To date, we have contributed to seven new homes.
On 25 July, after learning of students missing classes because they lack basic toiletries, we delivered R5 000 worth of toiletries to the Alumni Office. After our annual gala dinner on 4 December 2017 in Abu Dhabi, we made a similar donation to the UWC Sanitary Towel Project. We also donated money through the ‘UWC Fairy Godmother’ Facebook website to help two students to pay their rent, another student to buy a kitchen storage cabinet and two other students to repair their laptops.
In 2018, our executive decided to begin hosting students to expose them to possible opportunities in the UAE. Our first bursary recipient, UWC student Jesmé Swartz, attended our gala dinner in Abu Dhabi on 30 November 2018 along with the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Pretorius and the South African Ambassador, Saád Cachalia, who pledged support for our endeavours.
Often South Africans living in the UAE are contract employees and are not in the country for long, we, therefore, focused on member retention and recruitment in 2019. True to his word, Ambassador Cachalia hosted our first 2019 event, a braai, at his official residence. This event enabled us to donate to the Operation Smile campaign and the Tygerberg Children’s Hospital Fund.
We are proud that we have been able to support our communities and UWC and are grateful to our members and other South Africans who donate to our projects. Mr Niven Maree, UWC Alumni Relations Manager commented, “The UAE Alumni Chapter is the embodiment of an exemplary Alumni Chapter in that their commitment to their alma mater is tangible through their continued investment in the institution. We are truly grateful to the UAE alumni and look forward to hosting them on 24 July”.