After two years of working and exploring together we finally have closure. We (Eye for Others) and Saxion Colleges in Enschede, Deventer and Apeldoorn entered into a formal cooperation. For at least six years students of all twenty Saxion academies can complete their internships, minors and graduation assignments taking part in our Ritchie project. The entire project will be governed by two guiding principles, the lectureship of Saxions Pride and Eye for Others’ Circular Development Reinforcement. Below, an email is displayed where Jeroen and Marloes, coordinators employed at Saxion, share their sentiments with us after their first-hand experiences with our project and the students currently operating there.
How Small Business and Retail Management students contribute to a meaningful community project in Ritchie, South-Africa
Saturday the fourth and Sunday the fifth of November we visited the SBRM introduced Smart Solutions project in Ritchie. This project was first established by charity ‘Eye for Others’. The coming five years Smart Solutions will make sure that there are always students of theirs engaged with the project. Currently, there are six students operating in Ritchie; occupied with the project’s goals, they will remain there for a couple of weeks. These are students coming from various fields of study like Small business and Retail Management, Fashion and Forensics. One of our aims is that they will cooperate when encountering interdisciplinary issues. Every student has her/his own goals therein, like producing a theatre show for the local populace or making education accessible to more neighbourhood children. Herein we try to incorporate modern technology e.g. the internet and an up to date water supply and drainage system. Our students learn to apply their knowledge and skills in a new context, when done in conjunction with the locals it could prove to be a profound educational experience for them as well. Contributing nothing but money is insufficient, the community, or at least, their leaders, need to be engaged with the project for it to be successful. In addition to the Smart Solutions students, four second-year SBRM students were also present, they came in via the international expedition (Global Business) in the second year of their studies. They explored possibilities concerning sustainability and solar power. These students will be there for two weeks.
Visit of the project
Ton van der Smit is the founder of the foundation. For two days we were able to casually accompany him while he showed us around the various activities and segments of the project. We had engaging conversations with the students present. They told us that they found it difficult to realise goals within the period they were staying, they would need more time to accomplish them. Personally, they gain a lot as well. How to manage and behave in a culture where the rich and poor live as close together as they do. It is often the little things that are important. We are pleased of course, that the project will help to raise the students’ awareness.
The visit has given us a good idea about the situation in Ritchie, Where we were regularly faced with the pressing facts. Circumstances that are impossible to imagine. The ‘houses’ where the people live, children who are not getting any education, no sewer system, thirteen year old kids that have to give birth of their own, young children completely lost under the influence of drugs or alcohol, no facilities such as sports fields or playgrounds for children to develop themselves, the list goes on and on…
The SBRM Plan
If we are talking about Meaningful Entrepreneurship, this project fits the SBRM mould perfectly. We wish to engage in a continuous cooperation with the foundation ‘Eye for Others’. Our students will, in cooperation with other students, work on various interdisciplinary project in and around Ritchie. Where they will be able to stay for not just a couple of weeks, but for several months.
The effective idea is to professionalize the proposal of the project with the help of SBRM. There are 10,000 hectares of land available to us and a myriad of challenges and questions to take on. How do we make optimal use of solar power and water pipes? Are there efficient ways to supply water for drinking and farming? There are houses to be build, schools to be set up. This is a project that is going to take years and SBRM students will coordinate it. Smart Solutions Students from other disciplines will lend them their cognitive abilities and skills. In the coming years SBRM will build a ‘centre’ and will train entrepreneurs. Through this structural method, every smaller goal will become intertwined and more structured.
In summary: SBRM operates in an efficient meaningful way and tries to, despite the interdisciplinary and technological challenges they face, realize the construction of a new ‘Centre’. By finding solutions to challenging questions we will learn how to better implement technology in different contexts. But just as important is the sharing of our knowledge with the local communities. The government as well as the populace approves of this project. In time, the village will be able to employ every kind of professional we educate here at Saxion: physiotherapists, engineers, social workers, etc. A lot of professionals will already be present soon, though like we said via a different separate project. In December, Tom (head of the foundation), Marloes, Frank and Jeroen will deliberate the project. They will subsequently submit their proposal to all the Smart Solutions coordinators and discuss it with them.
A student’s life in South-Africa
Back to the students for a second. What a lovely group we visited! A very close-knit group confronted with a completely different world, a world you will not get to know as a tourist or stranger. Ton makes sure there is a safe haven for the students. After what sometimes prove to be intense experiences they will return to a kind of safari park which functions their base of operation. There they recover from their day, while the locals cook for them.
Ton takes them, together with the proprietors of the park, on Safaris. We got to experience thát as well, a dazzlingly beautiful landscape. These constitute the images we keep thinking about: A country with a great division between rich and poor, enormous racial differences but an amazingly beautiful country nonetheless.
Jeroen and Marloes.