Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
Newcomers make a big difference with social impact projects
Author: Corporate Communications and Marketing (Hannelie Booyens)
Published: 14/02/2024

​All bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, about 5 000 students at Stellenbosch University (SU) joined in making a difference during the Newcomer Social Impact Community Morning on 8 February.

An initiative of SU's Division for Social Impact, the morning annually offers students the opportunity to engage in activities with the aim of encouraging active citizenship through projects with other organisations and partners within the Stellenbosch community as well as within the Tygerberg medical campus and surrounding areas.  

The Community Morning is an integral component of SU's official welcoming programme for newcomers, explained Michelle Pietersen, Senior Programme Manager at Social Impact and coordinator of the event. “There was such a wide range of worthy initiatives and fun activities. From a cultural tour through Pniël to a cultural orientation tour in Kayamandi and Amazink, to community vegetable gardening and self-defence classes for women. Several of the student groups decided to focus on children, such as taking the kids of the Jesse Keet Crèche to Jan Marais Park for a fun day out, and two residences, Simonsberg and Sonop, organised a sports day at AF Louw Primary School. It's a wonderful opportunity for students to get to know the Stellenbosch community and for our communities to build a connection with the University. The excitement of the school children when they engage with the students is so inspiring. Their hope and energy also energize us," Pietersen added.

One of the biggest initiatives was a collaboration to pack 55 000 food parcels by Amamaties Hub that partnered with the Rise Against Hunger organisation. Hyped by an energetic soundtrack, more than 450 volunteers were racing to see which group could pack the most parcels, explained Lize Venter, Community Service and Outreach Director for the Golden Keys Campus Society. “It's been an amazing morning, everyone showed up ready to help in whichever way they could. We hope it makes a big difference in the Stellenbosch community," Venter said.

The Social Impact Community Morning also links with the University's vision of, among other things, advancing knowledge in service of society, the University's mission of enriching local communities, and its strategic theme of building purposeful partnerships and inclusive networks in the surrounding communities of SU.

Liam Harrison, a member of the Simonsberg House Committee said the goal of visiting AF Louw Primary School was to build bridges with the children through sport and other fun activities. “We also wanted to t show the kids they've got an older 'brother' and 'sister' who can support them. Our plan for the rest of the year is to become involved with a coaching programme at the school for rugby and netball. Today was just to lay the groundwork for building a strong relationship and making friends," Harrison said.

The success of the Social Impact Community Morning was creating enthusiasm for gardening, explained Connor Louw of Pieke private student organisation. “We decided to plant vegetables today in a garden run by students for students. We wanted to create awareness about food security and show people that even in an urban environment you can still have easy access to food. There was also a bit of a life lesson in today's activities – getting your hands dirty can have benefits, especially if it makes a real difference in people's lives," Louw added.

Tygerberg Campus

Newcomers at Tygerberg Campus also eagerly embraced volunteer opportunities, demonstrating a sincere commitment to making a positive impact. Through various stations, they contributed significantly to important causes. At Huis Francie Van Zijl, students crafted blankets, to be sold for the Pantry Project, supporting campus-wide food initiatives. The Tygerberg Student Centre Sports Hall hosted a Step Class where participation aided a pad drive. The U-Turn bus's thrift shop sold booklets to provide shelter for homeless individuals. At Hippocrates, newcomers prepared sandwiches for donation to the MES shelter, aiming to provide nutritious meals.

Meerhof station engaged newcomers with Kraaifontein Primary School, creating bookmarks and assembling stationary packs to strengthen campus-community ties. Each activity not only empowered newcomers to contribute meaningfully but also fostered a sense of belonging and camaraderie within the campus community, embodying the spirit of social responsibility at Tygerberg Campus.

PHOTOS: Stefan Els