By SINAZO MAGWEBU
Despite gloomy weather, third-year Rhodes University student Arno Cornelissen wears his usual smile when we meet outside Charlotte Maxeke House. I know he smiles because I see him in my Journalism class. He is co-majoring in English Literature – making two subjects that are a far cry from his high school choices. “I did Maths, accounting, business studies and technical drawing stuff,” he laughs.
On our way inside, we chat about the Media Studies assignment due in a few days. Cornelissen is a third-year class rep, but outside his classroom responsibilities, he also assists Makhanda through his involvement in a few community projects, chiefly Abakahuseli and NOSH food rescue.
His community activism started last summer when a friend in Gauteng (he is originally from Roodepoort) introduced him to Food not Bombs, which aims to assist transnational people, many of whom work in mines. “I saw what it could be like having people caring, doing whatever they can to support, and that’s when I started getting involved,” he says.
His parents were strict about the company he kept, which prompted him to rebel. “When I was younger, I caused a lot of trouble for myself and them and, at one point, that caused a lot of friction between my parents and me,” he says, then lets out a nervous laugh.
His mischievous ways led him to meet different people and see how others lived. Although there are a couple of things he wishes he’d done differently, he regrets nothing and is forever grateful for the lessons he learned along the way. Now he believes that community involvement will be a part of his future.