UCT reaches out

27 May 2008 | Story by Megan Morris

Giving: Thanks to the UCT staff and students, SHAWCO has been forwarding boxes of supplies to refugee sites

As foreign nationals continue to flee violence-stricken areas, UCT staff and students are doing their bit to help out. Leading the university's efforts are the Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) and the UCT Law Clinic.

Over the past weekend, SHAWCO marshalled scores of student volunteers to collect food, clothing and other supplies from residences and departments, channelling this to camps and safe havens via the Treatment Action Campaign. Similarly, bands of medical students were called in to help Médecins Sans Frontières, aka Doctors Without Borders, going out to over 33 refugee centres to conduct an audit of facilities, services and needs.

"This was invaluable to then develop an integrated health response," says SHAWCO's Jonathan Hoffenberg.

The Faculty of Health Sciences is also rallying other medical students with clinical experience to avail themselves to SHAWCO.

In turn, staff at the Law Clinic have been and continue to counsel and give legal support to refugees, seeing some 500 people at the offices on Monday alone.

UCT has also given of its other resources. Over the weekend, the Jammie Shuttles bussed some 500 people to refugee centres and other places of safety. The university has also set up an online site, through the Centre for Educational Technology's Vula system, for debate and discussion, already thriving on other forums.

Scores of other initiatives are also under way to help staff and students who fear for their safety or need help as exams loom. In addition, the university has publicised numerous statements condemning the violence and attacks on foreign nationals.

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