Head, heart, hands

| September 11, 2010
By Michelle Taylor

To live in South Africa means to feel the heartbeat of Africa beating in one’s chest every day, each beat echoing the beauty and brokenness of this powerful, dynamic country.


This awareness means that, as Africans, we have to make a paradigm shift that pushes through and beyond politics, prejudices and personal agendas. We must move from our heads to our hearts.

Kurt Hahn speaks of transformation

This shift is for the brave, courageous and compassionate risk-takers in life. They draw inspiration from social responsibility champions who prioritise raising up a generation to understand that reaching out beyond one’s comfort zone breathes new life into both souls – the giver and receiver. Kurt Hahn, the founder of the dynamic Round Square organisation, described it thus: “It is only when we reach into the poverty of those around us that we are able to speak to our own poverty. When we overcome our fears and step into the unknown and unfamiliar by reaching out to others, there is transformation for both.”

Social responsibility one of the core pillars of Cornwall Hill College

Square school. Our social responsibility programme aims not only to align us with the diversity and equity policies of ISASA, but to view social responsibility as one of the four pillars of our school (the others are academics, culture and sport). From pre-school to Matric, we encourage our learners to:

  • adopt a balanced approach to life with a better understanding of diversity, service and social responsibility
  • be true to our commitment to producing lifelong learners who live out our school’s values
  • develop a lifelong ‘heart’ for people and the world around them
  • get involved in community service projects locally, nationally and internationally\

The first challenge of running a social responsibility programme in a school is to create the space and opportunity for outreach to happen. The second is to break through the packed diaries of our young learners. When this happens, I believe transformation is possible.

Ample opportunity

There is ample opportunity for students to experience this transformative power. Some of our students do outreach in their holidays and on weekends of theirown volition. Three pupils recently spent two weeks in Swaziland, working in the town of Bulembu. By 2020, we hope to have built a sustainable community to house over 2 000 children orphaned by Aids.

We host ‘civvies’ days where we fund-raise for a particular cause: a recent recipient was CHOC – the Children’s Haematology and Oncology Charity. We also focus on the environment through recycling within the school, and visit the SPCA to help clean up and care for the animals. Our Grade 7s collect hampers for newborn babies born
at Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital, so that new mothers who have nothing can leave with some measure of hope.

At Cornwall, we are committed to sustainability. This is demonstrated by our long-term relationships with Klipgat Mission, run by the Missionaries of Charity, and New
Jerusalem Orphanage, a place of safety for vulnerable babies and children up to the age of 14 years.

Integral part of school life

All the work done with Klipgat Mission is voluntary but, because of our long-standing relationship, it has become an integral part of school life. Representatives in each class collect ‘charity’ every Friday, which we use to feed 100 families at the mission every month through our ‘Fill-a-bag-feed-afamily’ scheme. Our moms use the
money to purchase the food and the bags are packed by our Senior Primary learners and taken to the mission every month. We also donate any extra money to the nuns to use where the need is the greatest.

Pupils visit New Jerusalem Orphanage on Friday afternoons to play with and love the children. Through our annual Grade 10 outreach week, we have painted 40 metres of
murals on New Jerusalem’s new pre-school perimeter walls and the main buildings. Each winter we do a blanket and jersey drive, and the proceeds are shared between the two charities. Our pre-school hosts a Christmas party each year, and pre-schoolers from New Jerusalem Home get to spend a day at Cornwall. We donated 12 bikes, many
books and stationery last Christmas.

Some of the children are hosted by a Cornwall family over weekends. The Retail Division of Standard Bank and its directors donated R52 000 to be shared by both charities in December 2009, as a direct result of the work being done in these two charities through Cornwall. The enlightening thing about outreach is that, when we take up the challenge, it creates an opportunity to have our thoughts shaped, our hearts moved and the chance to give expression to this through the work of our hands.

Michelle Taylor is Head of Social Responsibility, Values and Round Square at Cornwall Hill College. Contact her at m.taylor@cornwall.co.za

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Category: Spring 2010 Edition

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