US students assist NGO

American students, from left, Ekom Ekpa, Ekene Bosah, Brianna Allen, Cade Edwards, Marcus Johnson, Trevion Freeman, and Cesar Jaquez, received certificates of appreciation from non-profit organisation Ikamva Ubomi founderEugene Walker, far right.

American students from the University of Texas spent two days a week volunteering at Athlone-based non-profit organisation (NPO), Ikamva Ubomi over the past month.

And in true South African style – as a way of thanking them for their service – members of Ikamva Ubomi held a braai and presented the students with certificates of appreciation, before the group went back home on Sunday June 26.

The NPO has been around for five years now. It helps young people – from high school pupils to recovering drug addicts – gain experience and knowledge in information technology (IT) and various artisan work.

The work done by Ikamva Ubomi over the years includes turning old school libraries into resource centres, restoring the cabling at one school’s administration block, refurbishing the trauma room at Athlone SAPS, and even cleaning and fixing the properties of pensioners

This was made possible by donations from local businesses.

The seven American students who helped out at Ikamva Ubomi were part of a group of 60 undergraduate students from the University of Texas, Austin, who arrived in Cape Town to study urban economic development. For three days of the week, they attended class and spent two days at various organisations, hospitals and schools.

These students are part of the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES Abroad), which is a non-profit organisation that administers study abroad programmes for American college-aged students.

Eugene Walker, founder of Ikamva Ubomi, said the students who were with them, “blew them away”.

“We are so grateful for all they did for us. Their use of technology really impressed us. Over the years, as an organistion, we have revamped a lot of institutions, but no-one has helped to revamp us – that was until the students arrived. They helped us set up a website, and opened Twitter and Facebook accounts for us. As finances are always a challenge for us as an NPO, they will also be helping us with fund-raising,” Mr Walker said.

Cesar Jaquez, one of the students, said he learnt so much from his time in Cape Town.

“The kindness in people’s hearts, like we have experienced here, is not something that is common in the United States. People genuinely care for their community here. I also liked the gatsby.”

Trevion Freeman said he was humbled by the experience.

“This NPO has no funding, and yet they are opening resource centres. In the United States, even at non-government organisations, somebody is getting paid to do the work. At Ikamva, everybody volunteers.”