What happens when a group of well-meaning students go into the ‘community’ with the intention to save individuals from the myriad of problems they see in the area? They start a vegetable garden- despite the fact that there are at least dozen other vegetable garden projects in the area. Redundancy, disinterest, a lack of communication and collaboration, are some of the problems encountered by those involved in community engagement programmes in Grahamstown. Something had to change; it was clear that Grahamstown needed a better approach to co-ordinating community engagement.
Thus in February of 2011, a group of students approached the Community Engagement office at Rhodes with an IT project that aimed to share up-to-date information and facilitate better co-ordination, communication and collaboration amongst those working on community engagement endeavours in Grahamstown. The team sought to develop a website that would house relevant information about projects (where projects relevant to one’s interest were located, when training programmes were available and how one could get involved). While Grahamstown boasts many NGOs, NPOs and other stakeholders involved in community engagement, there is no one single portal for persons to access information about such projects. Thus the idea of Vukuzenzele was born, meaning “wake up and do it yourself”.
This body aimed to create a space that would allow civic-minded bodies to do it themselves, a space where participants (volunteers and beneficiaries) could communicate better and design relevant solutions together. No more superfluous vegetable gardens for persons who were more concerned with human right or water issues in Grahamstown. The project aimed to create a website, accessible on computes and mobile phones, that would offer NGOs, NPOs, Rhodes University Societies and other stakeholders working on community engagement projects in Grahamstown, a space where they could share information about their work and allow better communication between community engagement programmes
With the firm belief that the Grahamstown community is just that, a whole community, we recognise that solutions to problems encountered in Grahamstown ought to be handled together instead of being imposed in a top-down fashion. We wanted, in a sense, to democratise community engagement in Grahamstown by empowering stakeholders with the relevant networks and information they needed to ‘do it themselves’
Under the guidance of the Rhode Community Engagement office, a team of five students came together to create this website. The team is made up of Ms Nosipho Mngomezulu (chair of Vukuzenzele committee), Mr Jai Clifford-Holmes (Chair of Galela Amanzi), Ms Julie Lothian (chair of Inkwenkwezi), Ms Boipelo Bonokwane (SRC Community Engagement Representative), Mr Jean-Michel Gaud (SRC Representative), and Diana Hornby (Director of Community Engagement office). The team aimed to develop and complete the site (mobile and website) by the end of 2011, outing in place strategies for training and advertising the site to users. The Vukuzenzele team is made up of a diverse group of individuals aligned in a common goal to enhance CE in Grahamstown. The first of its kind working with the CE office, it is our hope that in future such collaborations will continue within and outside the University grounds,
By Nosipho Mngomezulu
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