Mental Health Prep: Commonwealth Scholarships

26 August 2021

The British Council commissioned Belle and Co. to design an important pre-award session for newly selected Commonwealth Scholarship holders, in preparation for their study journey overseas.

The day was opened by Meekness Lunga, British Council Programme Manager, followed by two opening keynote addresses by Adam Bye, Deputy High Commissioner, Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office as well as a congratulatory message by Ms. Kealeboga Letlhaku, Deputy Director: Scholarships Management, Department of Higher Education and Training.

13 Commonwealth Scholarships scholars were competitively selected from a pool of 200 applicants.

The pre-departure briefing included invited Commonwealth Scholar alumni and scholars together, on behalf of Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK to participate in a workshop session about “The Impact of Covid-19 on mental health and well-being”.

A number of alumni speakers were invited to share their stories of achievements, the impact of the award and sage advice on how to best prepare for this life changing milestone. The session’s discussions centred on a key aspect of preparation, namely mental health and wellbeing given the Covid-19 pandemic situation. The speakers included:

Alumni panelists: Siphiwo Ngeni; Jean Pelser; Mbali Pewa & Bronwyn Sheriff

The session harnessed the expertise of scholars with backgrounds in psychology and education, coupled with real life struggles of mental health. The space created, allowed for the current scholars to express their fears, share their own stories and ask questions openly. Jean Pelser shared an interesting pocket guide on how to manage mental health through 10 easy steps:

The session was rounded off with invited guest and Belle and Co. Associate, Mutsa Samuel, who spoke on becoming trauma-informed.

Belisa Rodrigues concluded the session with facilitated feedback and story telling from the floor. The feedback after the session called for more such spaces of vulnerability.

Belisa Rodrigues and Mutsa Samuel

Solving the Worlds Problems

July/Aug 2021

Over a 5 week period, Belle and Co. facilitated a hybrid design thinking workshop with two cohorts of Life Choices Coding Academy students in Cape Town. Problems being tackled included among others: Environmental Pollution, Youth Unemployment, Lack of Ubuntu, Crime, Gangsterism, Developing SMMEs, and Service Delivery.


Each group broke down their problem using a problem tree, and gained a deeper understanding of the key issues but speaking to experts, the public at large and others.


After understanding the problem a little better, each group had to come up with a key insight that got turned into their key question they were looking to solve. After which each group was encouraged through various brainstorming techniques and inspiration, to come up with 50 new ideas.


On the last day, groups were given a few hours to come up with their key idea and to create a prototype for presentation to the rest of the class including invited guests from outside.


Prototypes ranged from Interactive Art Exhibition to immerse yourself in the lives of others; A rehabilitation and education centred called Aqua Cure for marine animals; An eco-fashion line using everyday waste; An Entrepreneurship school for ex-offenders; A mobile app for predicting public transport issues; A mobile app to connect unemployed youth to job opportunities and internships (locally and abroad); A community clean up co-operative; educational campaign on civic rights; a centre for GBV; and a financial literacy game modelled on Monopoly.