On 14 September 2018, final-year Property Development students embarked on a visit to the Celamandla Crèche in Molweni with a bus full of necessities, toys, food and clothing. Due to a severe storm in November 2017, the crèche had succumbed to irreparable damage, leaving close to 50 children between the ages of three months to five years without a place to properly care for them during the day.
As part of the final year assignment Dr Nishani Harinarain, a senior lecturer in the Construction Studies Discipline, assigned the students the task of helping the crèche. Prior to their visit, Harinarain had divided the students into teams and requested them to engage with the local community. Howard College students were asked to procure funds, toys, supplies, clothes as well as necessary essentials for the improvement of the children’s’ living conditions. The students were not limited in any aspect, but were told to be as creative as possible in achieving these objectives.
When asked how they initially felt when they were handed the task, Nkosinesisa Mkhwanazi and his team stated, ‘Honestly speaking, at first we didn’t understand the purpose of the task. We felt it was consuming our time and it was just too much.’ He then added with a smile, ‘however, visiting the crèche changed all that and made us appreciate and see why we did it. Seeing the smiles on those little kids and Silvia rejoicing made us realise how much they really needed and appreciated what we had done for them. More of such projects should be incorporated in the University’s learning experience.’
The intention behind this endeavour, stated Harinarain, was to inspire the students and help elicit a better sense and understanding of personal and professional skills that would help them create a valuable connection with the people within the community, not just as professionals, but as passionate, empathetic leaders of tomorrow.
‘We have learnt some truly amazing lessons throughout this degree, but this experience will be the one that stands out the most for all of us, especially me. It has taught me to aspire to become a compassionate leader and professional, and to lead with my heart, not only my mind,’ said Miss Stephanie Naidoo, one of the team leaders. ‘This endeavour has helped shape our morals and values in the right direction and we are very appreciative to Dr Nishani for allowing us to be involved in such a humbling experience. To see the kids’ faces light up with apparently joy and hear their excitement and laughter truly melted many of our hearts. It ignited a realisation that something small and insignificant to someone will maybe make a great impact to others,’ she added.
Many of the students said that to be able to complete this initiative as a class was a unique and remarkable experience to be a part of. ‘We were very excited to work on this assignment and although it required a lot of hard work and effort on our behalf, it was all well worth it as it was exceptionally rewarding to see the joy and smiles on the children’s and Silvia’s face. We treasured the time spent with the little ones,’ added Miss Qudsiyya Adam, Miss Yuriska Reddy and Miss Sitashni Govender, final-year Property Development students. ‘It was an unforgettable experience and we are grateful for being part of a university that gives students the opportunity to give back to the community.’
The group leaders said that the initiative gave each student a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment by being able to make a difference in the lives of others.
Muhammad Randeree said that, ‘The initiative imparted to us entrepreneurial skills which we will take with us when we become professionals. We learnt that we should take time from our busy lives to give back to the less fortunate communities.’
‘The experience of this assignment has taught us that it is more important to give than to receive. It was a great opportunity for us to apply everything that we had learnt in class and for us to give back to the community in such a special and unique way,’ added Robert Lukan.
Harinarain expressed gratitude to the students, families and friends that helped make this initiative such a great success as this not only benefited the community but the students as well.
Words: Nishani Harinarain and Stephanie Naidoo
Photograph: Nishani Harinarain