The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University (SU) recently celebrated its 25-year partnership with the community of Bishop Lavis with a Community Partnership Day.
The event, held at the Bishop Lavis Library, showcased some of the successful and mutually beneficial initiatives the FMHS and the Bishop Lavis community have collaborated on. It also provided an opportunity for reflection on, and appreciation of these partnerships.
Dr Leslie van Rooi, Senior Director for Social Impact and Transformation at SU, said that the university has been involved on a number of levels in the Bishop Lavis community for the past 25 years. “It is clear that these partnerships have grown. The purpose of today is to gain a better understanding of the relationships – how they formed and played out – and to reflect on how we can solidify and build on these partnerships.
“We are about to enter into a new phase, and today is an opportunity to take stock and see how we can expand and improve the partnership between SU and the broader Bishop Lavis community," Van Rooi said.
“The Bishop Lavis Rehabilitation Centre was developed 25 years ago with the aim of providing comprehensive healthcare to the local community, while at the same time providing our students with an opportunity to be of service on a primary care level," said Prof Susan Hanekom, head of the FMHS Division of Physiotherapy.
“The rehab centre is unique on the African continent, as it is a student-driven primary care facility," said Hanekom. The services offered there include health promotion, treatment of impairments, comprehensive rehabilitation, full community integration of clients with disabilities, and empowering the community.
Representatives from a number of organisation attended the event, including the City of Cape Town, city councillors, the Bishop Lavis Development Forum, the Bishop Lavis Action Committee, the local rehabilitation centre and day hospital and the University of the Western Cape.
Sue Statham and Liesbet Koornhof, with FMHS Divisions of Physiotherapy and Human Nutrition respectively, have been involved in the rehabilitation centre since the inception of the partnership, and gave an overview of how the FMHS established the primary healthcare training platform in Bishop Lavis.
“We were breaking new ground," said Statham. “It had never been done before and the whole project depended on partnerships between the university, the community, and the Department of Health."
In his talk, Dr Martin Heine of the FMHS Division of Physiotherapy, presented an ambitious new plan to expand the university's involvement in the Bishop Lavis community. As part of the City of Cape Town's Urban Renewal Programme, which will see upgrades the centre, SU plans to enlarge the current student learning platform to involve not just interdisciplinary, but interfaculty teams of students that can apply their learning there for the betterment of the community.
SU staff and students also paid tribute to community volunteers who help out at the rehabilitation centre. These volunteers, many of whom have disabilities and were patients there once, assist at the centre without any compensation.
Other community projects, such as the Bishop Lavis Day Hospital's Community Oriented Primary Care project, and the Words Open Worlds (WOW) projects, were also presented on the day.