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On Wednesday evening, the winners of the Rhodes University Community Engagement Awards were announced. We congratulate Rhodes Society/Sports Club of the Year, Enactus; Residence /Hall of the Year, Nelson Mandela Hall; Community Partner of the Year, CM Vellem Health Promoting Primary School; Student Researcher of the Year, Sustainable Land Management GEF5 Team; Student Volunteer of the Year(Joint winners), Sam Ncula and Mandilakhe Valela. Here are their award citations:

Society/Sports Club of the Year
Enactus Rhodes University is a society of students, academics and business leaders who use the power of entrepreneurship to change and transform lives of people in our communities. The overarching goal for Enactus is to achieve the triple bottom line of social responsibility, economic development and environmental sustainability. Enactus has established a relationship with the Assumption Development Centre as their key community partner, hosting business training workshops in partnership with the National Youth Development Agency and ADC to empower local entrepreneurs with skills they will need for the projects and businesses to be successful. The society started a project called ShuCliniQ which provides services such as cleaning shoes, educating people on foot diseases and providing shoe repairs. Enactus also works with the Kuyasa Special Needs School to empower the school learners with entrepreneurship and resume writing skills, and assisting them to sell their craft such as beadwork and mats which they produce from using recycled papers, bottles and plastics.

Residence /Hall of the Year
Nelson Mandela Hall
Nelson Mandela Hall are a dedicated, committed and active team that was able to tackle a number of goals with their Community Partner, CM Vellem Primary. They also respectfully involved and engaged parents and were mindful of the school’s protocol. Activities included supplying water to the School, facilitating sporting activities, organising an environmental day with a clean-up campaign and running a sanitary pad initiative. They also organised a successful visit by the CM Vellem Primary School children to elderly residents at Brookshaw Old Age Home.

Community Partner of the Year
CM Vellem Health Promoting Primary School
CM Vellem is a key partner to several programmes in the Community Engagement Division including the Joza Chess and Reading Club. They’re an active partner in Siyakhana e Makana (working with Nelson Mandela Hall for five years) and have recently been included in the Budding Q early literacy programme.

Volunteers appreciate the reciprocal nature of the relationships that have emerged with teachers at this school and feel that their effort is meaningful. CM Vellem has found a champion in dynamic teacher Ms Mpumie Frans. She has encouraged and coached our volunteers for several years. As a division, we’ve relied on her for expertise in multilingual storytelling and to be a role model to fellow volunteer managers. She is respected for the way she listens and contributes, genuinely and thoughtfully. This nomination is for the school but particularly recognises the extraordinary leadership of Mpumie Frans.

Student Researcher of the Year
Sustainable Land Management GEF5 Team
Ms Francis, Mr Duma and Mr Falayi are all equally and passionately giving of their time, knowledge and skills to a Global Environment Facility (GEF5) Funded Sustainable Land Management (SLM) Project being implemented at Machubeni communal lands, Eastern Cape. Ms Francis has provided training and knowledge to more than 25 community champions in the practice of conservation agriculture and all of them have improved vegetable production and diversity in their home gardens thereby contributing to food security of each household. Through her efficient and responsible work ethic and lively and friendly nature, Buhle has demonstrated that she is passionate about conservation agriculture, rural livelihoods resilience and youth development. Mr Duma has provided training and knowledge to more than 25 community members in the practice of simple, cheap and effective land rehabilitation techniques and he successfully led a group of 30 ‘Land Conservation Activists’ who have implemented erosion control work over more than 50 hectares of land across the five project villages. Mr Falayi is working on improved and polycentric governance of natural resources across the GEF5 Project villages. He has been responsible for successfully putting in place and leading a multi-stakeholder forum which has contributed to improved decision making and coordination of resource management and rehabilitation activities in the five project villages. As a team, they strive to promote land restoration and foster sustainable agricultural practices with communities.

Student Volunteer of the Year(Joint winners)
Sam Ncula
Sam is passionate about education and has been a mentor in the 9/10ths mentoring programme since it’s inception in 2016 and was selected as a leader in 2019. She has also joined the Budding Q early literacy programme. She is reliable, respected and organised. As a mentor and volunteer she has experienced a variety of educational contexts, and has approached each situation with compassion and understanding. Her relationships are meaningful and whole, well-considered and bi-directional. Sam often uses her own resources and time to ensure her mentees realise their full potential against all odds. She will organise tutoring for them, or access the guidance and motivation they need. Recently she and a co-leader have embarked on a campaign to motivate mentors by reuniting mentees who are studying at Rhodes with their mentors and making short videos to share on social media.

Sam tackles challenges in a practical manner. All Sam’s mentees have substantially improved their matric results each year (moving up at least one level of pass) and she has managed to maintain consistent engagement with eight mentees. Her investment in building and sustaining deep and meaningful relationships as part of human development is very significant.

Mandilakhe Valela
Mandilakhe Valela has been a volunteer since his first Year at Rhodes, 2016. He started off with Nokwandile Day Care Centre, participating as part of Jan Smuts Dining Hall Community Engagement programme. In 2017, he became the Student Leader in the Student Volunteer Programme while volunteering at Ikamva. He formed effective relationships with Site Managers, Student Volunteers, Community Engagement, and the Learners, among others. In 2018, he continued as Student Leader in the Engaged Citizen Program, assisting with the recruitment and registration of new volunteers. Mandilakhe presented in the 2019 Community Engagement Imbizo, on the theme ‘Reimagining the South African Public-School Education System’ and organised a Career Day for Community Partner Organisations and other important stakeholders.

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