The Rajen Reddy [RR] Foundation hosted a Gala Dinner on 18 February 2023, at the Durban International Convention Centre [ICC], to celebrate its first anniversary. The RR Foundation was launched on February 18, 2022, in memory of the late Rajen Reddy, CEO and founder of the RR Group of companies, who passed away in 2021. Rajen Reddy was one of the Trustees of the Durban University of Technology [DUT] Foundation Board.

With the theme, ‘The Power of the Collective’ the glitz and glamorous event was attended by foreign dignitaries, South African politicians, representatives of the eThekwini Municipality, business leaders, academia, civil society, family, and friends and many of the guests were stakeholders participating in the various community development programmes supported by the RR Foundation. The dynamic Ms Karabo Mohale who is the Deputy Executive Chair of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) weaved through the guests as she directed the programme excellently and with great enthusiasm.

The special guests’ list included His Excellency, Mr Zainal Arif Mantaha: High Commission of the Republic of Singapore in Pretoria, Mr Alex Ho: Enterprise Singapore, Narend Singh: Member of Parliament, Neville Matjie: CEO TIKZN, Eric Apelgren: Head of Department – International and Governance Relations eThekwini Municipality, Logie Naidoo: Ex-Deputy Mayor and Speaker of the eThekwini Municipality, Dr Mahmoud Youssef Baker: Chairman of the IQRAA Trust, Frank Lin Wu: Confucius Institute, Chris Delport: CEO of City Power, Ashok Sewnarain: CEO of IBV, Nomfundo Mcoyi: CEO Icebolethu Group and Dr Julia Ambler: Umduduzi Hospice for Children.

Some of the guests from DUT included Prof Keo Motaung: Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Innovation and Engagement, Mr Zwakele Ngubane: Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations, Dr Naseem Haniff: Director of Student Counselling and Health, Prof Surendra Thakur: Director of Short-Course Unit, Ms Candice Leith: Psychologist at the Student Counselling and Health, and Prof Thandwa Mthembu, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal who gave a message of support.

Welcoming the guests, was Ms Esay Reddy the RR Group CEO and the wife of Rajen Reddy. She said that the evening was to honour Mr Reddy’s legacy. ‘We are here to honour everything he stood for. Rajen was passionate about empowering our youth and looking after the aged, he was also passionate about acknowledging the importance of education. Each of the pillars of the foundation tells a story of what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it,’ she said

She also shared the three pillars of the foundation, which are: education, health, and philosophical psychology which includes mental health and gender-based violence. The current goal of the RR Foundation is to ensure that its flagship projects under each of these pillars are bought to full implementation. The flagship projects are the following: The Aurora Hospice for Children, 24/7-365 Mental Health and Gender-Based Violence Online Call Centre, and the Rajen Reddy School of Leadership.

Several guest speakers gave messages of support for each of these projects. First, it was Dr Julia Ambler: Co-founder of Umduduzi Hospice for Children. Dr Ambler emphasised the importance of establishing a children’s hospice in KwaZulu-Natal where palliative care can be provided to sick children. “Through the establishment of the Aurora Hospice for Children and the home-based care system, the children of KZN will have improved access to this kind of care and support,” she said.

Second was Dr Naseem Haniff: Director of Student Counselling and Health at DUT. Dr Haniff thanked the Rajen Reddy Foundation for making mental health one of its pillars as many people have to rely on community-based care in South Africa.  “The RR Foundation is fulfilling a vital role due to the lack of access that many people have to such services,” she said.

The DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Thandwa Mthembu, spoke on the Education pillar.  “Through the Rajen Reddy School of Leadership, we will be able to use today’s theme: ‘The power of the collective’, to overcome the most complex and persistent of our local, regional, national, and global problems,” he said. The RR Foundation donated R350 000.00 last year, 2022, towards students’ bursaries at DUT, this has assisted ten [10] students.

Delivering the keynote address was the award-winning storyteller and cultural activist, Ms Gcina Mhlophe. She said that Rajen Reddy wanted to inspire other people so that they knew that they had a place in this world, a right to succeed and to be somebody. “It is the heart that separates the good from the great. This man we are celebrating here tonight put his heart into everything that he did,” she said.

The event also auctioned artwork donated by Nanda Soobben, who is an internationally acclaimed cartoonist. Proceeds of the auction will be used to finance the various projects either currently underway or in development. The auctioneer was a stand-up comedian, Mo Vawda, who kept the guest entertained with his jokes and motivated them to buy one of the artworks on offer. The artwork on offer included the Eskom-inspired artwork titled ‘stage four’ donated by Vawda himself which received a lot of interest from the guests and supported it with great amusement.

The vote of thanks was delivered by Ms Venisha Reddy the daughter of Rajen Reddy who thanked all the guests for their support and generous donations. The evening concluded with entertainment by the music of the Mi Casa, who got everyone on the dance floor with his vibey tunes.

Picture: Prof Thanda Mthembu giving a speech during the event. Picture supplied by the RR Foundation

Adapted and extracts from an article published by Overport Rising Sun, accessed 13\03\2023

Phumzile Xulu

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