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SU’s new Wellbeing Ambassadors set to enhance staff health and happiness
Author: Corporate Communications and Marketing
Published: 03/06/2024

​​The Health and Wellbeing Plan at Stellenbosch University (SU) recently received a boost when a group of “ambassadors", consisting of professional, administrative and academic staff from different faculties and responsibility centres, were introduced to the ins and outs of the University's Wellbeing Programme.

The launch brought the first group of Wellbeing Ambassadors together in person to highlight their role within the institution, to meet each other and the SU Health and Wellbeing management team and to kick off the start of an internal SU training programme.

Prof Nico Koopman, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel, welcomed the group and provided context to the initiative. He pointed out that health and wellbeing is an institutional priority at SU and given the many challenges brought about by pressing socio-economic and geopolitical factors, the University has decided to intensify the focus on health and wellbeing.

One of the objectives of the Staff Health and Wellbeing Plan is to roll out a peer education programme, Koopman said. The Institutional Committee for Staff Health and Wellbeing adopted the concept of Wellbeing Ambassadors to meet this objective.

Strengthening wellbeing

The main role of the Wellbeing Ambassadors is to strengthen the wellbeing offering of the University. Ambassadors will be trained and informed about SU's wellbeing offering to be able to provide a listening ear and signpost staff members to the appropriate resources and services. They will also be able to assist SU with identifying areas of concern. 

Wellbeing Ambassadors will undergo the online co-curriculum offering of Higher Health of Universities South Africa and internal SU staff will be involved in their training.  

At the launch event, participants received an overview of the services offered by key internal SU stakeholders to whom they can refer staff members, explained Joanne Williams, Responsibility Centre Manager at the Office of Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel. “We stressed that the role of Wellbeing Ambassadors is not to counsel staff members, but to listen to concerns and then refer staff to the appropriate services within the institution."

Presentations were given by different specialists such as Jaco Greeff-Brink from the Equality Unit, Andiswa Zwelibanzi from Maties Sport and Dr Lynne Julie of SU's Campus Health Service. Katlego Letlonkane provided insights into diversity and inclusion at SU and Leilani Kruger spoke about the Life Health Solution Toll Free Line.

Francis Layman, one of the Wellbeing Ambassadors who works as Administrative Officer at Chemical Engineering, said she was very excited about the initiative. “Everyone at the launch event was very enthusiastic about getting involved to help better the environment for all staff. It was fantastic to see the enthusiasm and the hunger to learn to help make things better." Layman mentioned that some staff members are not aware of all the wellbeing channels that are available to provide help with daily challenges and coping strategies. “We have learnt so much and discovered once again how important it is to take good care of oneself. Traditionally, care is mainly focused on keeping the physical side in good shape, but we are now aware of taking care of the mental side as well."

Help is available

Layman said she's looking forward to supporting colleagues to access useful resources on campus. “It is fantastic to know that help is within reach. I believe that, through this training programme, the Wellbeing team will be equipped to successfully engage with staff.  We can and want to assist where possible and make the necessary recommendations to reach out for professional assistance."

The launch event was not only informative, it was also a reminder of our collective responsibility, said Liezl Williams from the Centre for Teaching and Learning. “As Wellbeing Ambassadors, we have the privilege of shaping our workplace culture – one that prioritises health, happiness and productivity. Each small effort contributes to a healthier and happier SU."

Fadhwa Patel from Research and Development said she enjoyed meeting fellow Wellbeing Ambassadors, and she looks forward to contributing and seeing the positive impact of the initiative. “To further enhance the programme's impact, it would be great to have regular follow-up events with guest speakers providing workshops," Patel added.

Williams explained that a Microsoft Teams site has been set up as a tool for Wellbeing Ambassadors to communicate and support each other in the role. “It will be a confidential engagement space for sharing challenges and ideas and we will also share relevant information and resources."

Shibu Mamabolo, head of Employee Wellness in the Division of Human Resources, is designing an ongoing training programme with online training sessions which will delve deeper into aspects such as diversity; inclusion and disability; substance abuse prevention; sexual and reproductive health; mental health; self-care and physical wellbeing; as well as the Employee Wellbeing Programme.

Wellbeing Ambassadors will also have the opportunity to participate in a full-day programme later in the year hosted by the Equality Unit. This will cover sessions on gender-based violence and gender equality, gender diversity and LGBTQIA+ issues as well as workplace bullying and reporting of unfair discrimination cases.

  • Clink here for a full list of SU's Wellbeing Ambassadors.