A cohort of postgraduate students from Stellenbosch University (SU) recently engaged with residents from Jamestown in Stellenbosch over dinner as part of a collaborative initiative by the Centre for Student Communities (CSC) and the Senior Living Spaces cluster known as the ‘In Conversation Dinner’ series. Jamestown is one of the many towns that exist on the geographical periphery of central Stellenbosch.
The dinner series is a concept initiated by the Multicultural Education Portfolio of the CSC and clusters at SU.
The aim of these dinners is to give students a better understanding of the histories of Stellenbosch and its adjacent communities and to encourage greater engagement between students and these communities. This increased engagement will (hopefully) highlight both the challenges and opportunities present towards establishing a more integrated Stellenbosch community.
At the heart of this initiative, is the important role that food can play as a ‘vehicle for social change’, because of how it brings people together in a way that very few other activities can, in the words of Anim Steel, Director of National Programs at the Food Project in Boston.
Socio-economic change was a recurring theme during the evening. During each of these dinners, a guest speaker from the community is identified and invited to speak about a particular topic and relate that to their community. For the Jamestown dinner, the speaker was Dale Simons, an entrepreneur and Director of MiDO Technologies, a small business based in the community. MiDO provides “community-focused IT solutions” to educational institutions and public benefit organisations.
Simons specifically focused on how the company was “increasing social impact by closing the digital divide”. He also shared more about the model that MiDO Technologies’ has built to bridge the digital divide between young and old, local and global, thought and action. He used a practical exercise where students had to form part of a team and solve fictional problem related to bridging the digital divide.
Simons’ pride in his community and clarity about the future of Jamestown were sentiments echoed by the rest of the Jamestown locals who were all very keen to share their community’s metamorphosis from farm to village and to the small town that it is now.
The students in attendance also shared their appreciation for the opportunity to be exposed to community stories, experiences, and to be welcomed into the community of Jamestown. This, they said, gave them an entirely new perspective of Jamestown, especially as the community served as a “human library” of sorts where they could gain a wealth of knowledge, and connect with the community through food for the soul, body and mind.