By Sarah Beningfield
Sarah Roberts is a third year Law and Politics student at Rhodes University. Despite the challenging degree that she is working towards; Roberts found the time to create and maintain the JJH Educational Project.
Roberts had the idea to start up the society after being made aware of a small children’s home, Jehovah Jireh Haven, in Alexandria that was in dire need of assistance. The home is an hour’s drive on narrow, potholed roads, out of Grahamstown, but Roberts was determined to make a difference in the lives of the children. She gathered a group of interested friends and started brainstorming.
“After a few times visiting the home, we decided we needed to do something proactive, and after hours of meetings, decided that education was what we wanted to focus on,” Roberts explained.
The next step in the process was to get Rhodes University to back the project. It was necessary to receive funding from the university, because the transport costs alone would come to R18 000 per semester. Creating a society was the best way to guarantee some financial support.
The society became a reality at the beginning of 2014 and soon had 80 members, with 50 of them committed to visiting the school at least once every two weeks. Two or three times a week, around 14 volunteers gather to make the long journey to the school and spend an hour tutoring the children, with about two volunteers to each age group.
The JJH Educational Project won Best New Society at Rhodes this year and Roberts is clearly proud of the achievements of the society that she created. She also stated that the most rewarding part of the society is the children themselves.
“They are the most precious and incredibly loving little souls. Seeing them get so excited and happy is overwhelming,” she said.
Roberts also spoke of the incredible support that the Grahamstown community has shown for the society, “Everyone who hears about our project wants to somehow get involved. It has really helped us with finding funding,” she said.
Roberts plans to stay on as the President of the society until the end of 2015 before encouraging a new face to lead the volunteers. She plans to make a number of improvements next year, including getting PDP’s (Professional Driving Permit) for six of the members, which will mean cutting transport costs in half. The society will also create a more structured lesson program so that each lesson has a plan and the children will be getting even more out of the arrangement.
If you want to find out more about JJH, visit their website here.
Q: What subjects are you doing at Rhodes? Have you found it difficult to juggle both your studies and the society?
A: I am studying in 3rd year Law and Politics and doing my LLB next year. I find it difficult at times but I have managed to maintain my marks. I just have to often make lost time by working late or waking up early.
Q: What has been your greatest challenge this year involving the society?
A: Getting funding, as we are reliant on it as our transport per semester is over R18 000.
Q: How has the response been from students and community members towards helping out the society? Both within (the volunteers) and externally.
A: It has been incredible! Everyone who hears about our project wants to somehow get involved. It has really helped us with finding funding. People who also go visit the home with friends instantly want to get involved. If their time tables do not allow them to come to JJH they are always asking how it is, which is great that people are thinking about it.