Lethabo Ntladi of the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Reach Out and Give (RAG) chats about the work of the student-led organisation and being involved in community upliftment.
Tell us about UP RAG.
UP RAG is the official student-driven, non-profitable fundraising and community service organisation of the University, and is dedicated to developing students through their active participation in community engagement activities, both theoretically and practically. It aims to develop students through exposure to community engagement, add to a wholesome organised student life experience and give them an opportunity to get actively involved in these projects. Most importantly, RAG aims to address the social and financial needs of individuals, groups and families through tangible contributions to their spiritual, health and social needs.
How has Youth Month had an impact on your life?
Our work is mostly aimed at building and uplifting youth. In this generation, young people are faced with diverse issues such as discrimination, gender-based violence and lack of access to basic resources, among others things. These issues have been aggravated by the impact of COVID-19. Throughout the year, we endeavour to find solutions and raise awareness of such issues. Youth Month is a time to reflect on these issues faced by youth and to continue to find solutions for them. However, we also celebrate the milestones that youth continue to reach in light of the challenges they face.
How you are helping your community?
As UP RAG, we are helping our community through our active participation in community engagement projects. In March we collected non-perishable food items, which were donated to the Student Nutrition and Progress Programme and will be used to assist students who require urgent short-term assistance with food parcels, and initiated a drive for essential toiletry packs for students. We are also assisting matriculants with university applications for 2022 and recently hosted a career guidance day at the Pretoria Institute of Learning.
What motivates you and other members of UP RAG?
At UP RAG, we believe that the future is a product of our present action. So by doing what we do, we are able to instil the “pay it forward” notion in students. This is so that they will educate, empower and assist their own communities out of their own accord, and be part of the process of uplifting society. This would curb the impact of socioeconomic issues such as poverty, discrimination and lack of education experienced by individuals, groups and families.
What advice would you give to young men and women about helping their communities?
When you decide to help your community, make sure you listen to the people you want to help and that you understand what their challenges and needs are – do not assume that you know what these are, because you might find that the solutions you provide are not effective and efficient.
What advice would you give to people about playing their part in community engagement?
Help your community intentionally and with passion. Do not do it for publicity, because the reward of helping your community is not always as tangible as paid work. You will have to find satisfaction in seeing the difference you are making in people’s lives – whether it is an individual or a group – and not what you are getting in return.