Ex-students raise funds for struggling varsity students

What started as a meeting of friends at a hostel room at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in 1967, was the seed that grew into Club 99, a group of alumni who aim to ease the financial burden on struggling students.

The club gets its name from the number of the hostel room.

Launched in 2005, they have, for more than 10 years now, been raising funds to cover the costs of students’ registration fees.

But their plans for the future include recruiting members with more experience in fundraising – and checking up on those who have benefited from Club 99’s assistance.

At the club’s most recent fundraising event, held on Friday August 4, club chairperson, Pat Burgess said it was important that former students made a lasting difference in people’s lives.

“We always encourage the former students to join us on this path.

“We felt the need to help those who cannot afford to get entry fees to university.

“We know it is not enough but it is a valuable contribution,” she said.

Former chairperson Neil Jacobs also urged members to support their efforts to raise funds for disadvantaged students at the university

“The club started when a few alumni friends who met socially on a regular basis, realised they didn’t only want to leave their loyalty to UWC at simply reminiscing, but realised that it was time to give back to the communities they come from,” Mr Jacobs explained.

After their first big fundraiser in 2005, he added, the initiative had gone from strength to strength and has since, helped 50 students.

“Being financially unable to afford registration at the university used to be the only criteria, but this is going to change soon. In the near future stricter criteria will apply and we are planning on following up on the progress of those who benefited from Club 99’s contributions.

“We would like to help with more significant amounts. Right now we are only focusing on contributions for registration, as we are not yet able to finance a student for a full year of study,” said Mr Jacobs.

He said the club was looking at getting more alumni involved in their activities especially those with more experience in fundraising or those connected to the corporate sector.

Also at the event was retired UWC rector and vice-chancellor Professor Brian O’Connell who challenged the communities to follow in the alumni group’s footsteps.

He added that there was no way that the there would be free education for everyone in this country and encouraged community activities to raise funds for poor students, emphasising that communities should be leaders themselves.

“It is through activities like this that we can provide education to all of our communities. We need to have a nation building itself. It is the only way.

“If the communities want more, they need to take full responsibility for what happens in their space.

“We should (encourage) a narrative that says all of us must work together to build this country. I believe it is possible,” he said.