Beacon of hope for Slangspruit community

2015-08-13 06:00
PHOTO: supplieD

Carolyn Burns, founder of Ukulapha Community Outreach Project.

PHOTO: supplieD Carolyn Burns, founder of Ukulapha Community Outreach Project.

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HAVING spent more than 25 years in Canada, South African­-born Carolyn Burns returned to the country in 2008 to find her life purpose.

Burns, the founder of Ukulapha Community Outreach Project, a non-profit organisation for orphans and families with vulnerable children, has since become a beacon­ of hope for the Slangspruit community.

With the help of her Canadian friends, the 62-year-old, who holds a Masters degree in counselling psychology, runs a bursary fund for top achievers in Slangspruit Primary­ School, enabling them to go to Alexandra High School.

Burns said her long-term goal is to expand the programme to other township schools, provided there is enough funding.

Growing up as a young white woman with privileges during apartheid, Burns left the country for Canada at the age of 32 and even there, she felt the need to change the lives of those who were not as privileged as she was.

“Although I was working, I felt that something was missing. I felt that I needed to do something that would make my life more meaningful. My partner at that time, who is still my good friend, encouraged me to come back to the country and do humanitarian work.

“When I came back to South Africa, my dream was to start a counselling college, but that still didn’t fulfil my life purpose. My friends advised me to find at least six needy families whom I would support every­ month. The first place I thought of was the Slangspruit area because growing up, our house helper was from the area.”

Burns said after a while she realised that supplying groceries to these families every month was not going to break the cycle of poverty, she needed to give them something that would last a lifetime.

“I spoke about education to six women who were heading their families and I started putting them through FET colleges. We then educated their children.

“In 2009 I visited Slangspruit Primary and upon talking to the principal I discovered that most pupils were orphaned and came from poverty stricken homes.

“We started by providing food and later decided to start fund-raising for tuition fees. We raise funds and select the top pupils from the school and cover everything from uniforms, full school fees and transport.”

The project has been running for the past three years. When asked about her goals, she said: “If there is enough funding I would love to see the project expanding to other schools, and even tertiary institutions.

“I would also love to find a young vibrant­ person who will continue to drive the project.”

Burns said she also taught the bursary recipients on the importance of giving back to their communities, as those who are in high school are already volunteering their services to their former school.

In 2009 I visited Slangspruit Primary and upon talking to the principal I discovered that most pupils were orphaned and came from poverty stricken homes

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