In showing compassion towards the people who were affected by the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal last month, the Community Engagement Office under the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), in collaboration with the Division of Corporate Affairs, Advancement and Alumni Relations and the Library Services established the Hands of Compassion programme to encourage the DUT community to donate non-perishable foods, household cleaning items, bottled water, new or used (in good quality) clothing and linen, for those left destitute after the floods.

The handover of the items which were recently donated by members of the DUT community to the South African Red Cross Society, was held at the DUT ML Sultan Campus Library on Wednesday, 18 May 2022.

This three-week disaster relief Hands of Compassion Programme began on Friday, 22 April 2022 and concluded on Friday, 13 May 2022. The drop-off locations were the DUT libraries on all campuses in Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

At the event, the programme director, Mr Zwakele Ngubane, Director: Advancement and Alumni Relations at DUT, expressed that this initiative was in line with DUT’s values and principles of ENVISION2030, where compassion is one of the key values. He also thanked the DUT staff, students and the Iqraa Trust for their generous contributions.

Third-year Food and Nutrition student, Shannon Pillay who donated 200 cans of non-perishable food.

Delivering the welcome and introduction, Ms Sarah Khan, IT and Systems Librarian at DUT conveyed her sincere appreciation of the Community Engagement Office for involving the Library Community Outreach team to partake in this initiative and of the DUT KZN Flood Victims Task Team, led by Professor Monique Marks, Director: Urban Futures Centre at DUT, for providing guidance on how the relief aid collected should be distributed to communities and to also help establish a partnership with SA Red Cross. She thanked the team for their enthusiasm and for encouraging others to donate. Khan also conveyed her gratitude to the third year DUT Food and Nutrition student Ms Shannon Pillay, who donated 200 cans of non-perishable food during the handover.

“It is very important to remember that as we study, pursue our own goals and ambitions that we live within a community and that there may be those who are less fortunate than others, who may encounter various challenges. Through our ability and willingness to engage, we must make sure that we contribute in whatever small way that we can, in that way we will be able to move forward as a society and deal with the challenges that we encounter,” said Ngubane, who was also impressed by Pillay’s donation.

Explaining the establishment of Hand of Compassion programme, Ngubane said DUT does not see itself only as an academic institution but also as a part of the community within which the university resides, to contribute towards improving lives and livelihoods.

Dr Malefetjane Phaladi, DUT Director: Library Services delivered a message of appreciation to several stakeholders for their participation and ensuring that the project was a success.

Speaking on behalf of the DUT KZN Flood Relief Task Team, Dr Mal Reddy said DUT prides itself on community engagement, for reaching out to its stakeholders and the DUT community, both internal and external. She said the Task Team conceptualised how DUT could make a difference to some of those who were affected and to those in the most vulnerable communities.

“We as DUT have been fortunate enough to identify a partner in the South African Red Cross, Mr Siyabonga Hlatshwayo. He was so receptive in terms of partnering with DUT without questioning issues around what, why and how. We know and understand that the SA Red Cross has a very broad geographical footprint and we hope that this partnership is the beginning of many great things to come,” said Dr Reddy.

Speaking on behalf of the SA Red Cross Society and the beneficiaries who will be receiving the goods, Mr Hlatshwayo said; “I extend my sincere gratitude to everyone who participated in the project. As disaster management practitioners, we did a framework that is saying we needed to invest in communities to ensure that they are assisted during disasters. To see institutions like the DUT coming in and contributing to the communities, it actually shows that we are moving in the right direction.”

Ms Phumzile Xulu, from the DUT Community Engagement Office, delivered the vote of thanks to all those who made an effort in collecting donations to support those affected by the KZN floods. She made a special mention of the DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, for his great leadership and for emphasising that DUT needed to offer support to the flood victims and to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement, Professor Sibusiso Moyo, for facilitating the establishment of the DUT KZN Flood Victims Task Team in support of this initiative. The Task Team was made up of representatives from faculties, research units and directorates.

“We have forwarded the list of identified communities and their needs, as suggested by the KZN Flood Relief Task Team, to the SA Red Cross. We are awaiting information on the distribution of the relief aid so that we may accompany and support them in the selected communities. Once again, our gratitude to you all for all of your efforts and continued support. We trust that the items donated will find their way to the communities that are in dire need and that they will contribute to the efforts of relieving them of some of the burden they carry following the recent floods,” said Xulu.

Pictured: The DUT KZN Flood Relief Task Team members handing over donations to Mr Siyabonga Hlatshwayo from the SA Red Cross.

Simangele Zuma

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