Staying true to the spirit of giving, Occupational Therapy students at the University of Pretoria (UP) recently participated in an outreach initiative called the Bunnies of Hope Easter project that brought joy to more than 100 children at Happy Sabby Day-Care in Daspoort.
The initiative was driven by the Occupational Therapy Department’s Executive Committee (EC), which is made up of a group of 10 to 12 students who represent the department’s student body. Each member receives a portfolio, which can be related to the planning of significant social events, sporting opportunities or overseeing the well-being of students in the department. The Rag and Well-being EC members are in charge of facilitating the department’s outreach programmes.
The Bunnies of Hope project was conceived in 2020 by Rag and Well-being EC member Liann Meyer. After completing an assignment that involved making a knitted bunny during her first-year Occupational Science module, she realised that once the knitted bunnies had been graded and returned to students, they served no meaningful purpose. So she began collecting the bunnies made by first-year students with the intention of donating them to a children’s facility in Pretoria.
Because of the restrictions that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, the project lost traction, as students were unable to drop off their bunnies at the collection point on Prinshof campus. But the project picked up again in 2022 when Kristen Cronje became the new Rag and Well-being EC member and reinstated the collections.
With collections beginning in March, Cronje saw an opportunity to integrate the project with the upcoming Easter celebrations. So she changed the project name to the Bunnies of Hope Easter Project and encouraged students to donate second-hand stuffed animals and clothing in addition to their knitted bunnies from first year. The idea was that a child from a chosen facility would receive either a bunny or a stuffed animal as an Easter gift from the Occupational Therapy department.
The collections were a success – the department amassed more than 120 stuffed animals and bunnies, and four big bags of second-hand clothing. The Happy Sabby Day-Care centre was identified as the perfect facility for the donations – the department has a relationship with the daycare facilitiy as fourth-year occupational Therapy students regularly conduct group therapy sessions there.
The centre was opened by Principal Sabrina Monyokom who saw the need to provide a safe space for children between the ages of two and six who come from low-income households in the informal settlement of Daspoort. The daycare centre relies solely on funding from parents and resources are scarce.
After the April recess, Liann Meyer, Tasha Erasmus (who is now Chairwoman of the Occupational Therapy EC) and Cronje set off to Happy Sabby Day-Care with the bags of teddy bear and clothing donations. Upon arrival, big smiles and warm hugs greeted the three, who recall the day as being “truly heartwarming”. The children, they add, could not contain their excitement when the bags were opened and the teddies were handed out to each child.
The day had a significant impact on the students, who say that the young children reminded them of a valuable lesson: to appreciate life’s small joys and find happiness in what we have.
Cronje hopes to pass the project on to the next Rag and Well-being EC member for the 2022/23 term and is confident that the department will return to Happy Sabby next year with even more donations for the children.