A story of hope

Belinda Bantham -- Mon, 11/12/2018 - 09:43

A story of hope

More and more South Africans realise the importance of coming together and changing their own circumstances for the better.

The community of Coligny, a small town in the North West province, recently experienced this true spirit of Ubuntu.

Students from the North-West University (NWU), together with South Africa Day, a non-profit organisation that focuses on nation building, helped to paint, plant and clean up the city.

South Africa Day COO Barend la Grange invited Prof Juanee Cilliers* from the NWU’s Urban and Regional Planning subject group to collaborate on the Coligny Forward Project.

The aim of this project is to encourage community members take ownership in reviving their town, and therefore to co-produce solutions to transform the spatial environment of the Coligny and Tlhabologang area.

“I have a weekly segment on the radio station RSG, discussing environmental issues and related research conducted by the university,” says Prof Cilliers. “After a talk on taking ownership in your own environment, I received a phone call from Barend, inviting the NWU to collaborate on the South Africa Day project in Coligny. I did not have to think twice and we happily joined forces.”

During the first semester of this year, Prof Cilliers put her money where her mouth is and created a project where third-year urban planning students had to compile creative ideas to help revive Coligny.

“All the ideas were put into a PowWow document and presented to community members in Coligny,” she says. “Some of the ideas in the document included a solar-powered donkey cart, community vegetable gardens, green roofs and green walls, reusing grey water and place-branding initiatives.”

During the second semester an excursion was arranged where students had the opportunity to physically contribute to transforming the space.

“Students helped to paint the buildings along the main road of Coligny and Tlhabologang. SABC news captured the event and it was also showcased on RSG,” says Prof Cilliers.

“I am so proud of our students – their enthusiasm and willingness to make a difference is truly inspiring.”

Prof Cilliers says the local community took over the paint brushes when their bus had to return to Potchefstroom. “We felt we left some motivation and inspiration behind for the local community to keep the momentum and continue to revive their town.”

The next part of the plan is to develop an art route running through Coligny and the Tlhabologang area with key heritage points, unique selling areas and small tourist attractions.

Prof Cilliers says this project really inspired students to do their bit in transforming the country.

“This is a story of hope. It shows what is possible when we take ownership of our own environment and start to improve our surroundings, even if it is on a small scale.”

*Every Saturday morning Prof Juanee Cilliers has a slot at 6:45 am on RSG where she talks about environmental issues and some of the research that the NWU is currently doing.

Female NWU students hard at work to transform the face of Coligny.