Staff and students at the launch of OT’s new
Donations Drop-Box.

A donations drop-box was unveiled outside the discipline of Occupational Therapy (OT) at E-Block on the Westville campus by fourth-year students in the programme.

The box forms a part of community engagement initiatives by the final-year students for their practical work in the community of Mariannridge, just outside of Pinetown.

The donations drop-box is being used in their Empowerment Project which makes use of donated clothing which is then sold in Mariannridge by women in the community to provide them with an income as well as to empower them with business skills.

The students said the project has helped women who are living on the bread line, with four of them currently functioning as newly cultivated entrepreneurs selling clothes in the community. ‘It has been great for me to get out of the house, keep myself busy and make some money at the same time,’ one of the women said. 

The students said the project was an excellent opportunity for them to learn how to carry out OT services in the community setting, in addition to their usual practical block in hospitals. ‘Occupational therapists work to empower people to reach their potential, to overcome barriers affecting their ability to participate in their daily life, and in doing this, promote health and well-being through occupation,’ they said.

For new women entrepreneurs, the project is now is its second phase as it was started by students in 2014 who worked with other women in the community – two of whom have been empowered to gain employment themselves.

The students entered the Mariannridge community where they found locals apathetic and discouraged by the high rates of unemployment. They said the project was a stepping stone to help local women find work. While some women could not afford to buy food, pay for lights and electricity, others did not have transport money to go to hospital and apply for much-needed social grants.

The donations drop-box was introduced to bring sustainability to the project so that donations will continue to be brought in from outside sources rather than just staff from the Disciplines of the Audiology, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy and Departments  who are the current main contributors to the project. They also plan to place donations drop-boxes on other campuses as the project grows.

The students thanked everyone who has contributed clothing as well as UKZN’s Stores department for donating the barrel; the senior OT Technician, Mr Matt Muller-Nedebock for constructing the donations drop-box which simulated a letter box; Mr Stanley Govender from Technical Services for his assistance in securing the donations drop-box, and their supervisor who has guided them through the project.

‘These students really come up with a lot fascinating projects – there’s a lot of lateral thinking involved,’ said Muller-Nedebock.

OT Academic Leader, Professor Kitty Uys, praised the students for initiating the on-campus drop-box using only the available resources and for making an impact in society.

There is currently a need for more donations and the students ask anyone who has any old clothing to please drop it in the donations drop-box or phone 031-2608218.