Throughout the past two months, staff and management at Oxbridge Academy have been collecting blankets, clothes, food, and other items for our 'Keep Stellenbosch Warm' charity drive. This drive was about more than just making a single donation, however. It formed part of Oxbridge Academy's overall commitment to corporate social responsibility as a growing company and distance learning college.
On 14 August, Oxbridge Academy's staff representatives carted five overflowing 200l boxes of donated goods to the nearby Stellenbosch Night Shelter. We were met there by Dorothy Reyneke, the chairman of the shelter, who talked to us at length about why they do what they do and why fostering responsibility is important to them.
The Stellenbosch Night Shelter has been relying primarily on donations for the past 24 years. "Most of our food is donated. Clothing is donated. Items that we can use are donated," Reyneke said (she herself is an unpaid volunteer). As she took us on a tour of the shelter, Reyneke explained that each night about 42 people come through their doors looking for a warm bed and something warm to eat. Nightly, occupants get access to two meals, a bed, ablution facilities, and very importantly: access to social services. But "they have to pay R7 for the night," Reyneke insists. "No pay - no stay. Because the whole issue is to get them to take responsibility." Likewise, each person needs to have a valid identification document to be admitted to the shelter - another way in which they try to instil a sense of responsibility in their transitory residents.
The word 'responsibility' kept coming up as Reyneke continued the tour through the clean, yet Spartan, facilities. Encouraging the residents to take responsibility does not only help the volunteers to do their jobs better, but also gives the destitute vagrants the first real opportunity they have to start taking back control of their lives. Though the residents can leave their possessions in the shelter's lockers during the day, they are only allowed into the facility from 17:30 until the next morning. "People say: 'But what about during the day?'" Reyneke explained, "But the point is that if they hang around here the whole day, they are never going to get anywhere."
Responsibility is not just a metaphor when it comes to companies and corporations in South Africa. Oxbridge Academy, as a rapidly growing business, assumes a very literal sense of responsibility towards the community it is part of, and also towards South African society as a whole. Even before the Night Shelter charity drive was over, Oxbridge Academy's staff representatives already started planning the next big drive as part of our expanding corporate social responsibility programme.
But responsibility takes on another, deeper, meaning when your company is also a skills development college. Barend van den Berg, Oxbridge Academy's MD, often talks to his teams about the 'bigger picture' - what we are doing and why we are doing it. As a college, he would say we have a crucial role to play in the edification and improvement of South Africa as a country. Affordability in education, quality course content, valued qualifications, and relevant skills training are all central to Oxbridge Academy's aims and mission. We want even the poorest South Africans to have access to the training and education they need to be able to participate fully in the country's economy - both in order to improve their own livelihoods, as well as to contribute to the improvement of the country as a whole.
At Mr van den Berg's insistence, our staff representative committee chairman, Hanél Haumann, also handed Denise Paulse, the shelter's manager, 10 Oxbridge Academy Ubuntu Short Courses to give to shelter residents, volunteers, or staff members. Though these might not satiate the immediate needs of the hungry and homeless, it might just lead to a better tomorrow for some of them. As Dorothy Reyneke said about the shelter itself:
"This is not a permanent home - it's accommodation till something better. You've got three months accommodation. And so you are out for three months. You've got to learn to try and make something more of yourself."
To make donations to the Stellenbosch Night Shelter, you can contact:
You can also find out more about Oxbridge Academy and the distance learning courses we offer by visiting our website: www.oxbridgeacademy.edu.za
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