The Theewaterskloof (TWK) International Community Development Project aims to contribute to socio-economic development and poverty alleviation of rural areas in the Theewaterskloof community. Students help design and implement projects that build the capacity of the TWK Municipality and create positive change for community members.
The foundation for this project was laid in 2004, when HAN University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands and the University of the Western Cape in South Africa formed a partnership. Since then, the program has been scaled up and institutionalized to involve 250 students in projects that affect over 1,000 community members. Cape Peninsula University of Technology is now home to the central coordinating office of the project, and partners with HAN, the University of the Western Cape, the Elgin Learning Foundation, and the Theewaterskloof Municipality to bring Dutch and South African students together to tackle the community’s most pressing challenges.
With the help of faculty advisors, the TWK Municipality, and community members, students design service-learning projects that build on their areas of study. One example is the Waste-to-Wealth program, in which university students teach younger students about entrepreneurship as they recycle discarded objects into usable products and artwork. Other projects include assisting small businesses, initiating arts and educational activities in local schools, and providing health education and life skills training to young people. The students are also aware of the importance of sustainability, and ensure that future students will be able to continue their projects and build on them.
The cross-cultural component benefits both the Dutch and South African students. "The Dutch students benefit greatly from South Africans’ local knowledge,” says Merle Hodges, Director of International Affairs at CPUT. “What we’ve found is that Dutch students are now taking the programs back to their institution and implementing them there, so the effects are even wider."
Joanna Dibden, Manager of Local Economic Development & Tourism in Caledon, has observed the real impact of the TWK Community Development Project: “The project is bringing more understanding to governmental organizations. We’re often stuck in the ways we do things, but the university students provide a breath of fresh air. They come in with a lot of great ideas and enthusiasm. We’re benefiting a lot.”
The TWK Community Development Project provides a strong example of how a university can institutionalize civic engagement work by creating cross-cultural partnerships and working with local government. This project also demonstrates the increasingly international nature of civic engagement in the higher education field.
See profiles of specific TWK projects: