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Stories of hope in rural Mpumalanga

GWF’s finely honed Ecosystem of Learning and Working can be seen in action at establishments such as Hippo Hollow Country Estate in Hazyview, close to the Kruger National Park.

Three GWF Bridging Year Academy (BYA) graduates – Vezokuhle Hlabane (21), Dansile Bulunga (26) and Ayanda Dube (29) – are currently interning or working full-time at the lodge. With their families dependent on their income, their lives and circumstances have been changed radically by earning a qualification and getting a job.

Hlabane, from Mkhuhlu in Bushbuckridge, attended the BYA, which opened a pathway for her to pursue further studies at the foundation’s Hospitality Academy. She is now a trainee at Hippo Hollow while pursuing an e-learning diploma in hotel management and hopes to one day own her own establishment and create job opportunities for the youth.

“Hard work, dedication and good time management have got me to where I am today, and I’m grateful for the opportunities given to me by GWF that I’m sure will propel me to further success,” this go-getting young woman asserts. “Sleeping is for the rich; waking is for the successful!”

Dube, from Calcutta near the Kruger Gate, has had an “exciting journey” since joining the BYA in 2016. Having dropped out of university after failing her first year, she opted instead to complete a BYA course and was overjoyed to later be accepted into the Hospitality Academy.

“Mpumalanga has a rich hospitality industry and I think my people skills have helped me a lot,” she reflects. “At first, it wasn’t a passion for me – it was just a job. But I started to fall in love with hospitality, as it gave me purpose. I started as an intern and now I’m a commis chef [novice chef] – I enjoy working in the kitchen and learning about people’s dietary requirements.

“My home life has changed as well – life wasn’t easy before. As the firstborn, I’m the breadwinner and now I can support my siblings and kids. I’m very thankful to GWF for the opportunities they’ve given me.”

Bulunga, from Mshadza near Hazyview, dreamed of being a traffic officer when she was young. But after a short stint at a college in Nelspruit, she found herself sitting at home with no job and those dreams dashed.

“I applied to join the Bridging Year Academy and finally started seeing a way forward,” she relates. “On one occasion I was asked to present to the class, including to visiting overseas guests. I was scared but proud when I realised, ‘I can do it.'” She was later accepted into the Hospitality Academy, served an internship and was recently made permanent as a front-of-house receptionist at Hippo Hollow.

“I love interacting with guests and getting to know different cultures from around the world. I’ve also opened a business on the side – a spaza shop selling russians, chips and so on. I’d like to expand my business and, in the long term, have my own hotel and restaurant. I want people to know me for my head – by that I mean my work.”

Hospitality Academy facilitator Tarshine Mafuyeka says the academy takes 20 students every year, drawn mainly from Lowveld villages. The course – with modules in front-of-house, housekeeping, table attendance, and professional appearance and comportment – is an introduction to hospitality that serves as a springboard to further studies or placements. This holistic course comes from the South African College of Tourism, and is accredited by the Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA).

“Our aim is to try to place them at establishments in the area, although some get jobs outside Mpumalanga,” she explains. “I must say, our graduates get snapped up quite quickly! People here want to hire local people, because of their local knowledge and as a way of giving back to the community.”

Bulunga’s message to young people in Mpumalanga who have given up hope on their study and career journeys is, “Go and apply at GWF – do not give up. Keep pushing!”

How can we be of service? Zodwa Buthelezi (left) and Tarshine Mafuyeka from GWF’s Hospitality Academy, with some of this year’s cohort of hospitality students.




Mzukona Mantshontsho is the founder of Nyakaza Media Solutions. Nyakaza Media Solutions is an organisation that was established to help community organisations, business entities, and schools to research, write, document, report, analyse, edit, publish newsletters or bulletins in hard-copy, on-line and maintain websites with the relevant content as per the editorial policy of that organisation, school or entity. Nyakaza Media Solutions has a vision to promote and bring dialogue to communities, businesses and schools about issues that affect them. Nyakaza Media Solutions is on a mission to develop and encourage communities, businesses and learners to celebrate the good, applaud excellence, welcome growth, strive to be better individuals, businesses and communities, want more knowledge, discourage bad and counter-productive behaviour as well as communities, businesses and learners that want to be great SOUTH AFRICANS. Nyakaza Media Solutions is making use of Yo School Magazine as a platform that learners in all schools to make use of to write their stories.

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