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Volume 23.10
26 April 2004

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SHAWCO: Initially a one-man intiative, today a huge student volunteer organisation



Rag, 1953

SHAWCO was started in July 1943 by Andrew Kinnear, a UCT medical student, who spent his vacation driving an ambulance to earn money to pay for his medical training. He was appalled by the poverty, lack of hygiene and scant medical facilities in areas like Kensington and Elsies River, and became determined to do something about it.

Kinnear asked Dr Golda Selzer of the pathology department at Groote Schuur Hospital to help him establish a clinic. Selzer became one of the founders of SHAWCO and remained SHAWCO honorary life president until her death in 1999. In 2001, UCT's chancellor, Graça Machel, agreed to become SHAWCO's new life president.

What started as a one-man initiative grew into one of the largest student volunteer organisations, attracting around 500 UCT students, close to 100 foreign students, as well as about 20 community volunteers every year, all of whom give of their time and energy for the same goal of building a better future.

Youth development as well as the provision of care for the elderly and the disabled are the two areas that the communities want SHAWCO to focus on. Healthcare projects and running multi-purpose community centres with skills training and recreation projects also remain a part of SHAWCO's strategy.

SHAWCO Kensington Community Centre is home to the Community Histories Project, the Visual and Performing Arts Project, STEP and Stepping Out. In addition, it houses the SHAWCO Adult Day Care Club, provides meals-on-wheels to about 45 people in the area, and also houses a number of local organisations: the Jewish Women's Union crèche, a home-care training facility, a church group, an employment agency, as well as the Provincial Administration of the Western Cape (PAWC) social services. The hall is used by a judo club, the ballroom dancing club, is hired out for weddings and other occasions, and serves as a pension payout point twice a month.

SHAWCO Manenberg Community Centre - The Performing and Visual Art Project, taking place at the centre, involves UCT student volunteers who help local primary and secondary school pupils develop communication skills and leadership qualities through art and drama. The centre also houses a local crèche, family and child support services and serves as a pension payout point.

SHAWCO Nyanga Community Centre is home to the Masizikhulise (Let us help one another grow) Project. This is a vocational training project, which involves unemployed mothers and their children at risk. SHAWCO organises literacy classes and training for the mothers, while UCT students assess the children's development, ensure that they receive adequate nutrition and engage them in stimulating activities. The centre also delivers 65 meals-on-wheels to elderly and disabled residents in the area.

SHAWCO Khayelitsha Community Centre is home to STEP - the Student Tutoring and Education Project, whereby student volunteers provide grade 3 to 8 children from several schools with educational activities, complementing the school curriculum. It also houses the computer training facility with 12 computers and a predominantly children's reference library, the Stepping Out Project, which trains high school pupils in research and writing skills through the creation of a publication on local social and cultural history, as well as the Masifundisane (Let us teach each other) Project. This project involves vegetable production at two schools and the creation of an Environmental Park on a wetland site adjacent to the centre. The centre also houses the SHAWCO Adult Day Care Club and Nonceba mother and child abuse-counselling centre.

In addition to the projects run at the SHAWCO centres, there is the Masizame (Let us try) Project, which aims to improve the quality of life of children in three children's homes and a convalescent hospital through outings, play and learning, and the SHAWCO Mobile Health Clinics. At present these clinics operate in three informal settlements and two community clinics, providing professional care to communities where state medical services are inadequate.

UCT RAG (Remember and Give) is SHAWCO's student fundraising team at UCT. RAG's 90 student volunteers raise money mostly through sponsorships and corporate events. SHAWCO also has a small fundraising team at the head office, whose task is to complement RAG's work.

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