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Community Engagement Awards 2016 Winners

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Rhodes University Community Engagement is proud to announce the winners of the RUCE Awards 2016. There were strong contenders in all five categories of Student Volunteer of the Year, Community Partner of the Year, Society/Sports Club of the Year, Residence/Hall of the Year and Student Researcher of the Year.

It is time to affirm those who have served our community generously this year, RUCE is proud to announce that the winners for 2016 are:

Residence/Hall of the Year

Founders Hall



Community Partner of the Year

Children of the Soil

Student Researcher of the Year

The Amanzi for Food group (Tichaona Pesanayi, Chisala Lupele and Phindile Sithole)

Society/Sports Club of the Year

RU-Mountain Club

Student Volunteer of the Year

Anna Talbot

Rhodes University has extremely committed and talented staff, students and community partners who work tireless throughout the year in volunteerism, community engaged learning and research programs. The annual Community Engagement Awards celebrate the successes of top achieving student organisations, sports clubs, residences, departments, engaged research work by students, members of the student volunteer program (SVP) as well as 9/10ths mentoring program and our community partners over the past year.

Community engagement serves as one of the core purposes of higher education, transforming traditional teaching and learning as well as research practices in order to break down the boundaries between institutions which were isolated from the societies in which they should rightly have been embedded, and making them more responsive to those contexts. Community engagement is also a crucial way to transform individuals who are involved, changing people’s ways of being and perceiving each other and the world around them, undermining biases and prejudices, and cultivating criticality, reflexivity and civic values. In its broadest sense, community engagement is an important way for universities to operate as institutions which work for the public good by partnering with community based organisations and broader society to tackle issues of local importance in a unified way. By making university assets available through volunteerism and community engaged learning programs, and harnessing the assets available in local communities, we can work together to overcome some of the major challenges faced in society today.

Residence/Hall of the Year - Founders Hall

Founders Hall is part of Siyakhana @ Makana and has been working closely with Siyazama Pre School. Founders Hall has also been involved in a number of campaigns, raising funds for Give 5 and Pocket Money Fund, with the hall raising the most amount of money out of all the halls on campus. The men in Founders Hall together with Rhodes Support Staff co-manage a tutoring programme – the UBUNTU Knowledge Project – which assists primary school going children of support staff with homework and tutoring.

Community Partner of the Year - Children of the Soil (COTS)

Children of The Soil (COTS) is a non-profit organisation launched at the beginning of 2015. It consists of a collaborations between academics and volunteers and aims to create awareness amongst youth regarding environmental preservation issues. COTS believes that if young people are not educated now on how to conserve the earth there will be no earth for them to give to the next generations. COTS want to actively engage youth in environmental resuscitation programmes with the aim to incorporate those programmes into the curriculum. COTS strives to engage the learners in the surrounding Grahamstown area into mentorship and participatory programmes that will highlight the impact of climate change and guide them in developing responsive actions that should be taken to minimise that impact today. Children of the soil has taken huge leaps in promoting environmental sustainability and resilience in Grahamstown. Since it was launched at the beginning of 2015 COTS has promoted self-empowerment and environmental sustainability by getting involved with school children in vegetable gardens, recycling, environmental awareness lessons and physical education. An applied example of their work is trying to discourage the financial dependence on buying vegetables, while it’s easy to plant and grow a vegetable garden and so indirectly cut down your ecological footprint. COTS has also provided a greater understanding about environmental sustainability through raising awareness concerning food and water security and how the youth may grow up with understanding of how to preserve and manage water and food. COTS has active partnerships with local schools: Fikizolo primary, Good Shephard primary, Samuel Ntsiko Primary, Kuyasa Primary, Ncewu Primary and CM Willem Primary.

Student Researcher of the Year - Group: Tichaona Pesanayi, Chisala Lupele, and Phindile Sithole

Tichaona Pesanayi, Chisala Lupele and Phindile Sithole’s work all falls within the broader Amanzi for Food research programme which looks at ways of working with an agricultural community and implementing rainwater harvesting and conservation practices into various agricultural activities that they are involved in. Tichaona has worked closely with college and university lecturers in curriculum development and innovation to include rainwater harvesting and conservation agricultural practices and seed saving techniques into the curriculum. Tichaona's work lies in two case-studies, one set in the Nkonkobe municipality and the other in Zimbabwe (his home country). His research has looked at the process of curriculum development in the agricultural context. Chisala’s research is in the media area where different communication channels have been explored in sharing relevant and useful information to the agricultural community. She has focused on radio and associated social media where her research participants have joined her in the local community radio's studio to broadcast about their experiences and what they have learnt through the course and through engaging with the WRC materials. Phindile’s research is exploring the active and important role that agricultural extension services play in the complex agricultural sector. Their role is vital as communicators to farmers where they facilitate and support social learning processes. The relationships she has built with extension officers in the area have given insight into their role in the sector as communicators and educators with active farmers.

Society/Sports Club of the Year - Rhodes University Mountain Club

The Mountain Club has partnered with the Cub Pack consistently for two years. Each week it is run by volunteers. 2016 was the first year they can boast a dedicated and persistent leadership team for the boys. This added value to the Pack as relationships formed were sustained throughout the year. Above and beyond the standard volunteers, the club had many casual volunteers help in various once off activities (such as our camp, swimming afternoons, slack line events at Rhodes). The partnership between the Cub pack and the Mountain Club (RUMC) is a natural and seamless fit, providing fertile grounds for a mutually beneficial partnership. RUMC has resources the Pack can use for outdoor activity and the University space serves as a meeting ground for activities (such as climbing, slack lining, swimming etc.). RUMC benefits by being in Community Engagement circles in Rhodes, providing alternative ways for members to get involved in club life and an outlet to share an expanse of knowledge. The program is formed primarily by Anna Talbot, but brainstorming and other contributions flow in readily from numerous volunteers. Each week is a jam packed hour of Outdoor play and education. The Pack has taken a social justice and child participation stance this year which has proved highly successful and drew participating children in more than was expected. Each term had a specific project and theme (Term one- a campaign on Peacekeeping, Term two- Trading Live and environmental issues, Term three- A project on compiling their story as a community). Each term has a collaborative project and an outing (this year had a camp, International Parade, Swimming and a Slack Event at Rhodes).

Student Volunteer of the Year - Anna Talbot

St Mary's DCC Cub Pack has now been registered as a project with RUCE for just under three years. The project was founded primarily by Anna in her first year. It was started in order to rekindle Scouting in Grahamstown and provide an alternative activity for boys in our community. Since its inception the Pack has grown in numbers, ideas and made headlines in National and local news. Anna places importance on forming and sustaining relationships, both with the boys and staff members. These relationships sometimes even extend to parents and past members of the pack. As a leader Anna is dedicated to her work, being organised and innovative when creating programmes for the Pack. This year the programme has emphasised social justice issues and highlighted child-participation through various public exhibitions, campaigns and activities. Anna makes an effort to include many stakeholders and get involved in various university activities as well (like International Parade and Trading Live). She is sensitive to the needs and learning experiences and capabilities of her colleagues and the group of boys. Her work extends beyond just running a programme on Thursday afternoons. Anna liaises with the RUCE office, Scout National Headquarters, volunteers and St Mary's Staff. This year Anna has worked closely to train volunteers in order to take over the project successfully in 2017. Anna has also presented her work in scholarly forums such as the Annual Community Engagement Symposium over two years consecutively. The work she has done shows that she has a deep understanding of reciprocal engagement with community partners and dedication to the purpose of the group. She is passionate about the cubs’ project and bringing people together for a purpose, a greater cause. This attitude has rubbed off on volunteers she has mentored. Anna is a volunteer who embraces and embodies the core values underpinning community engagement.

"We are greatly indebted to all of our community partners, students and staff who have worked tirelessly over this year to build mutually beneficial relationships which have not only served to strengthen our Grahamstown community, but which have are also paving the way to making our university more engaged, socially responsive and ultimately accessible. We salute your and thank you for your combined efforts. We extend a heartfelt congratulations to all of the nominees and winners on their commendations," shared Ms Di Hornby, Director of Community Engagement.