SHAWCO steps up again

12 November 2018 | Story Sarah Middleton. Photo Robyn Walker. Read time 4 min.
SHAWCO staff deliver desperately needed goods to boost the aid relief effort in Overcome Heights, near Muizenberg, where more than 300 homes were razed by fire.
SHAWCO staff deliver desperately needed goods to boost the aid relief effort in Overcome Heights, near Muizenberg, where more than 300 homes were razed by fire.

More than 800 people living in Overcome Heights in Capricorn Park near Muizenberg were displaced on 25 October when 309 homes were destroyed in one of the major fires that have devastated local communities recently. For the second time in two weeks, the University of Cape Town (UCT) Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) stepped up to provide assistance to the affected residents.

Selmarie Kenneth, senior administrator in SHAWCO’s Academic Interventions Unit, had just completed a delivery of donations to the survivors of a similar large fire in Khayelitsha when she heard the news of this second fire.

She immediately informed SHAWCO management, who lost no time in gathering further donations for the Overcome Heights families.

The fire could not have come at a worse time for the learners in the area.

“As schools have now started their exams officially, it’s not just the matric learners who are affected. There’s a large group of school children all writing exams at the moment,” said Declan Dyer, vice-president of SHAWCO Education.

The SHAWCO bus, loaded with donated clothing, shoes, stationery, utensils, hygiene products and food, delivered these much-needed items to the Seawinds Multipurpose Centre in Vrygrond on Friday, 9 November.

“These donations have predominantly been given to us by the SHAWCO community, but also the larger UCT community,” Dyer said.


“These donations have predominantly been given to us by the SHAWCO community, but also the larger UCT community.”

Gail Johnstone, assistant to local ward councillor Gerry Gordon, said the donations were extremely welcome, with many people still struggling to find food and shelter following the fire.

Gordon has been coordinating the delivery of goods to community members, said Johnstone. Donations delivered to the Seawinds centre are sorted and then distributed according to need.

The team from Gordon’s office works every weekend to ensure that donations get to those who most need them as quickly as possible.

“This donation from SHAWCO will go to the people by the start of [this] week,” she said.

Donations have also been coming in from other sources, including the Red Cross, South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), Gift of the Givers, supermarkets and the community.

“Everyone is giving,” Johnstone added.

Construction complications

Residents whose homes were destroyed in the blaze received building materials from the Department of Human Settlements on the Saturday after the fire, and immediately started rebuilding.

But it has not been smooth sailing for all. There have been complaints that they have not received enough building materials, which has meant they have had to buy their own.

Some have said that they have lost their original plot of land to others.

As a result, a group chose to rebuild on open land, in contravention of City of Cape Town regulations. These structures were in turn demolished, forcing residents to start over again.

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Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO)


The Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) runs various health and education programmes. Approximately 2 000 UCT students are involved.

The community partnership and social entrepreneurship programmes, that address inequality, are managed by 32 full-time and 5 part-time professional staff.

Operating in the Western and Eastern Cape, the health programme provides primary healthcare to 5 000 adults and children (annually) close to their homes, with fully equipped mobile clinics.

The education programme gives academic support and homework assistance to 1 300 learners weekly with structured education projects that help improve the academic ability of learners.


In the news

Volunteers see need through new eyes SHAWCO’s 750 km health tour to four rural communities in celebration of the organisation’s 75th anniversary was an unforgettable experience for volunteers – and those they treated. 09 May 2018
Support SHAWCO’s 750 km birthday health drive To celebrate their 75th anniversary, the Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) has launched a 750 km health drive in the province from 3 to 7 May. 24 Apr 2018
SHAWCO: 75 years of giving back SHAWCO is celebrating its 75th anniversary with a fundraising drive to secure future efforts to promote healthcare and education in the community. 28 Feb 2018
A start that is more than a beginning SHAWCO’s Saturday School aims to improve matric results and assist youngsters from under-resourced schools to gain entrance to the tertiary education system. 02 Feb 2018
SHAWCO: celebrating 75 years of service SHAWCO is turning 75 and aims to raise R75 million to ensure the continued provision of healthcare, education and development services to the community. 23 Nov 2017
SHAWCO Health’s new president Fifth-year medical student James van Duuren is the newly appointed president of SHAWCO Health for 2018. 19 Oct 2017