The education model at Waterford Kamhlaba offers far more than the academic programme; it shapes students to be responsible citizens who make positive change in society, and that is why WK alumni often go on to establish community-based organisations that support critical needs way after they have left the school or even university. Waterford’s Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) programme is a practical opportunity for the students to make a real difference in the local communities of Eswatini, and to learn the importance of community engagement. The programme brings our students together with people from often vastly different circumstances to their own, which opens their eyes to social issues and the potential to make change.
It all starts on the Waterford hill where students dedicate approximately 3 – 4 hours per week on CAS. There are over 50 community service projects and one of these is a relatively new project that has changed the face of a breathtakingly beautiful community that is framed by the Malolotja hills in the outskirts of Mbabane in Eswatini. The name of the community is Hawane. WK alumni Leah Gaspari (Mozambique, WK 16 – 19), Alicia Barker-Astrom (Sweden, WK 18 – 19) and Gloriana Ye (Taiwan, 18 – 19) recall how WK’s Community Service Director allowed them an opportunity to help a local community at Hawane when they approached her with the idea. “She told us to apply for funding from Go Make a Difference and we got the funding. When we got the funding we started working towards building a youth center in that community,” they say. They also applied for funding to focus on the education aspect of the youth center.
Waterford’s CAS Director Fiona
Mills explains how the project started when the students identified an
unpainted one room preschool building that had no windows and doors in the Hawane
community. “We started painting the room and putting the windows and doors; we
used to go there to support the pre-school and play with the children when our
students approached Rosa Magagula, a teacher at the pre-school, about the
possibilities of helping the community with a youth centre,” she says. This was
after Rosa had indicated that the community was in need of a youth centre
because the youth was idle and falling into drugs and alcohol abuse. The
project started as a product of close collaboration between WK students and the
Hawane community. The students met with the traditional leaders and held
several meetings, discussing how they were going to renovate an old and
abandoned community building, which was used by the Boer farmers in the early
1900s, to establish a youth centre for the community.
The students started by cleaning up the building, then painting it and putting up windows and other essentials. According to Fiona, this was done through the support of the maintenance staff from WK. “The funds from Go-Make-a-Difference were used for this project and the students named the project “RISE.” Slowly but surely the building emerged as a watertight building and when the three students graduated they handed over the project to a new team of students who have been working hard to make sure it continues. We have been going there on Saturdays to play with the children and each time we are there members of the community also join us. Going forward, the plan is to put some furniture, table tennis and have a small library. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 situation started and very little has been done in 2020,” says Fiona.
The RISE project has led to improved engagement with the community of Hawane, including partnership with the local structures such as the pre-school, chiefs and other traditional leaders. This project, alongside other community service projects by Waterford students, is a demonstration of what a UWC education is about; it is about adding value to the lives of people through making positive change in the community. Most importantly, it is also about development of leaders for Africa and the world – leaders with a sense of purpose and hunger to influence positive change.
Communications & Public Relations Officer