Most people expect to receive gifts on their birthday, but Prof Karin Baatjes is using her next birthday to give one of the greatest gifts of all: education.
To celebrate her 50th birthday, Baatjes, who is the Vice Dean: Learning and Teaching for Stellenbosch University's (SU) Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), will be launching the Birthday for Bursaries Campaign with the aim of raising R100 000 in bursaries for health sciences students.
“Throughout my career I've championed the cause of education, believing in its power to transform lives," says Baatjes. “The Birthday for Bursaries campaign aims to provide tangible assistance in the form of bursaries to deserving students to help them realise their goals without financial constraints."
Walk the talk
Baatjes doesn't just talk the talk, she will literally also be walking the walk. To add momentum to the campaign, starting on her birthday (31 January) Baatjes will walk/run/cycle for 50 minutes—in recognition of her 50th birthday—weekly until 21 March 2024, which is Human Rights Day. And she's inviting the Stellenbosch community to join her on this adventure.
“Whether you walk, run, cycle or skateboard, we're encouraging people to move with us for 50 minutes in whatever way they prefer," says Baatjes. Most of the 'movement sessions' will take place on the Tygerberg Campus, and you can expect to see some famous guests join in from time to time. Watch the social media spaces for updates on exact dates.
Build on success
She first got the idea to use her birthday as a fundraiser for student bursaries last year when she aimed to raise R49 000 for her 49th birthday. The initiative was highly successful and she managed to raise close to R70 000.
“It was extremely heartwarming that colleagues, friends, family, other institutions and companies were willing to donate money to help students get through their degrees," Baatjes says about the success of last year's project. “After the positive response I decided to do it every year around my birthday, hence the campaign's name: Birthday for Bursaries."
Last year's initiative not only enjoyed financial support from the SU community, but a number of prominent figures and celebrities also put their weight behind it. SU's Law Trust Research Chair Prof Thuli Madonsela completed a 5km walk with Baatjes in Stellenbosch, while the celebrity doctor and SU alumnus, Dr Darren Green, joined a session on the Tygerberg Campus, as did SU Rector and Vice Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers.
Alleviate financial stress
Baatjes's entire career has been geared around service to student—first as an academic tasked with training students in the theoretical and practical aspects in the field of anatomy and surgery, through to her current role as Vice Dean: Learning and Teaching where she's responsible for all things student-related at the FMHS.
“There is more to being a student than just academics, and over the years I've endeavoured to offer support to the other aspects of students' lives. I think it must be very stressful for students to concentrate on academics while worrying about securing funds to pay your student fees," says Baatjes. “I'm driven by the desire to try and support those students. And while I realise it will never be enough to help all students, I'm motivated to try and make a difference to those that I can."
All proceeds from the Birthday for Bursaries campaign will go towards the Ithemba Bursary Fund that lends financial support to deserving health sciences students at the FMHS.
Show your support
Click here to donate towards the Birthday for Bursaries Campaign. You can also show your support by joining Baatjes on one of the movement sessions that take place weekly. Keep an eye on social media for more detailed information on the events.