The COVID-19 pandemic has left many South Africans unemployed as businesses have had to downscale or shut down. The need to assist the most destitute has become more urgent than ever. As an engaged university, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) has extended a helping hand during these trying times through its Community Engagement Unit, headed by Professor Priscilla Daniels.
The unit partnered with Ambassadors for Change Agents South Africa – a non-profit organisation based in Montagu – a town in the Little Karoo.
While the CEU is not a funding mechanism, it is committed to partnerships and making a difference in the lives of rural communities.
The CEU facilitated donations for care packages, helped with the distribution of meals and even highlighted the dangers of substance abuse.
The contribution was well-received in the community, with one post on social media hailing CEU and the Ambassador for Change Agents South Africa. “Our hearts overflow with gratitude. The people of Montagu appreciate the extra mile the Community Engagement Unit of UWC took in ensuring #pwh2020 ends with a bang. Thank you to all the sponsors, volunteers, donors who invested their funds, time, resources and energy in ensuring that the people of Montagu and surrounding towns are serviced.”
Damaris Kiewiets of CEU, who was key in sourcing all the donations, explained that her unit has a five-year relationship with Change Agents South Africa. “They do an annual project, Winter Hope, and because of the pandemic we could not access the Old Age homes and partnered with our partner organisation. We served close to 500 people and kept on reminding them of wearing masks and about sanitation”.
UWC Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, Professor Vivienne Lawack, commended CEU and Ambassadors for Change Agents SA for their selfless efforts. “I want to thank Damaris Kiewiets who went above and beyond to reach the most vulnerable in our communities. I would also like to thank Prof Priscilla Daniels for her leadership in ensuring that our Community Engagement Unit operates well amidst the uncertain times. CEU exemplifies what is in the DNA of UWC: how we engage with our communities and social justice.”