Over the next few months, we will be sharing stories on young South African’s who previously graduated from the Youth Development Programme of Wilderness Foundation Africa. These stories will illustrate the resilience that we have seen in many of the youth who have been through our programmes, a skill which is going to be critical for each of us as we bounce back and rebuild beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today we share Wendy Mbolekwa’s story. Wendy graduated from Umzi Wethu in 2013 and is currently a facilitator at African Global Skills Academy.
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Wendy Mbolekwa – Umzi Wethu Alumni
Q. How did you hear about WFA and when was this?
Before I heard about Wilderness Foundation Africa, I was upskilling myself at a computer academy in Walmer. A friend at the academy told me about short courses that were offered by Wilderness Foundation Africa. I later found out that 150 people would be interviewed and out of that number only 20 would be selected for the Umzi Wethu programme. I was nervous, but I still applied anyway. I got the best news ever that I made it and that was the beginning of a new journey in my life.
Q. Tell us a bit about what was happening in your life before you started at Umzi Wethu?
While I was still in grade 12, I unfortunately got pregnant. Life was very bleak for me after matric because I stayed at home for four years. I felt hopeless and that I was even losing my identity. The only source of income coming in at home was my mother’s grant which sustained my child and I. Umzi Wethu was really my breakthrough as I never thought that my life would change positively in the manner it has. Umzi Wethu showed me possibilities which I had shut out. The possibilities of employment, responsibility for my actions and contributing financially not only to my household, but to the community at large.
Q. Tell us a bit about your time at WFA and the training you received?
The training at Wilderness Foundation Africa under the Umzi Wethu programme was for 12 months. For two weeks we would learn theory and then for another two weeks we would do practicals. In essence it was a hospitality course which focused on shadowing hospitality students doing professional cookery. We would also be tested during the programme in order to assess our understanding and evaluate your progress. In these months I learnt a lot about myself and grew my skills and appreciation for cooking.
Q. What did you like the most about Umzi Wethu ?
I really enjoyed the environment at Umzi Wethu. The facilitators were like family to me because of the attention they gave and the manner in which they wanted to see you excel. They were also like psychologists, because whenever I had problems they would always find time to listen and assist me to the best of their capabilities.
Q. What was the key lesson that you learnt at Umzi Wethu?
The biggest lesson I learnt at Umzi Wethu was self-belief. I learnt to believe in myself no matter what I’m going through. I had to develop a thick skin as life showed me that if you don’t know who you are, then people will take advantage of you. I did a lot of introspection and gained so much knowledge about myself and the power that is within me to complete any tasks that I set my mind too.
Q. Where are you currently working and are you enjoying your job?
I am currently working as a facilitator at African Global Skills Academy. My job is to facilitate hospitality projects. I also teach them the theory and practical components. Ultimately all the skills I’ve gained, I’m now teaching and passing them on to the next generation. I also motivate the students to do their best and hold them accountable for delivering excellence.
Q. What is your goal in life?
My ultimate goal in life is that I may make a positive difference in young people in whichever way there may be. I want people to say that because Mrs B was in my life, I have renewed hope and believe that I can do whatever I set my mind to.
Q. What advice would you give to a young person?
The best advice I can give young people is to pray without ceasing. During my four years while I was going through trials and tribulations, I prayed a lot that God would change my life. I always had hope and the desire that my life would change. Focus and believe in yourself. Always remember that you won’t achieve your goals until you put in the work.