By Aditi Hunma
Photos: Nicole Lesch and Rondine Carstens
On the cold morning of 21 May, blankets and fleece throws were piled high in front of the Hoerikwaggo building on upper campus. CHED's Transformation Committee's Events Committee was about to embark on a trip to the Diep River informal settlement. There, waiting for their arrival was Auntie Hannetjie, a volunteer, who we are told, left her children behind in Ceres to attend to the needs of the Diep River community. That day, she offered to be the staff members’ guide into the nooks of the settlement.
The blankets had been donated by CHED staff members on Freedom Day and at an internal tea party. Dr Cheryl Brown, acting chair of the CHED Transformation Committee said: "The purpose of our Transformation Committee Events is get our Faculty involved in both outward and inward facing transformation activities. Although we all have the freedom to vote, continued inequalities in our society persist. The Blanket drive was our way of acknowledging this."
Members of the Events Committee, Gadija Arend, Janine Peters, Nicole Lesch, Wilma Adams and Rondine Carstens, chose not to meet outside the settlement, but rather to mingle with the people at their doorsteps and experience a day in the settlement. Upon their arrival, an announcement was made and women and children emerged from their shacks to receive the blankets. The men had left early that morning in search of casual work or food. While distributing, staff members took time to chat to the residents about their lives and needs.
Auntie Hannetjie said: "It was a touching experience to think that staff in CHED and the Transformation Events Committee had taken time off work to come and support us by donating these blankets at the start of winter." Lesch said: "I counted my blessings when I saw the circumstances in which the community had to live", and said she wished she could have assisted more, especially with the recent fire ravaging their home and belongings.
Eight year old Rubenita, a grade two learner at HeathfieldPrimary School was one of the recipients. She shared her joy upon receiving her blanket: "Winter in a home that is not made with bricks is very cold." When we asked her what else could be achieved in her community she raised the education issue, hinting at the lack of resources among families to afford schooling. "My friends that are still at home and not going to school, I would like them to be helped to go to school", she said. The organisers see the ‘Blanket Drive’ as the start of other initiatives to up skill the community members in the lacking areas of their lives.
The TC Events Committee also hosted an internal Tea Party, whereby staff across CHED had the opportunity to deliver their donated blanket/s and socialise with one-another.