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July 5, 2017

Moments of impact

impact

“There are moments of significance in your life, moments of impact…these moments separate your life into two parts, before and after.” The date was 22 December 2013, and I was getting my weekly dose of Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class. When I heard her say those words, my world stopped for a second or perhaps a minute. I think I had a before and after moment at that very spot. This before and after notion always takes me back to what is probably the most significant thing to happen to me.

A decade ago, I was afforded the honour of attending one of the best schools any young woman could go to. This was my moment of impact. Starting Grade 10 at Inanda Seminary in 2007 as the first group of learners sponsored by the Zenex Foundation through their ISASA M&E Programme was the start of a life-changing journey. I list my years at Inanda Seminary some of the best years of my life. It was during my time there that I inherited values that remain at the core of my being to this very day. The value of education is unparalleled. To be in a space that allows you the platform to grow academically, but also makes you realise that there is also room for you and your abilities in this developing world is something I wish for every young person. For me, being awarded the ISASA M&E bursary was my first “moment of impact”. There is something about being part of the chosen few, when many were called, that lights a spark within you. This spark has seen me through my worst times. From that moment onwards, I have known, without a shadow of doubt that I can do whatever I put my mind to. I have known that there is a light that is within me, and it is my duty to ensure that nothing dims my light. When I was in Grade 11, I watched the prize-giving ceremony and when the Dux award was awarded, I thought to myself that I want my name to be next on that wooden shield. A year later, I stood in front of parents, visitors, staff and learners at Inanda Seminary as the Dux for 2009.

I completed my Bachelor of Social Sciences degree in Geography and Environmental Management in 2012. In 2014, I started my internship, which ended in June 2015. At that point, came another moment of significance. During my internship, I was always reminded of the need for me to further my studies. I applied for my Honours degree and I was accepted by the University of the Witwatersrand. I had never been outside of KwaZulu-Natal province before 2015, and the thought of living in another province terrified me. While I was anxious about leaving my comfort zone, the possibility of that move changing my life for the better made gave me insane courage.

After an eventful three weeks of sorting out my registration fees and having a close family friend pledging financial support towards my studies, I settled into what was going to be an eventful academic year. My first semester went off without a glitch. In June 2016, I was preparing to go to do the fieldwork for my Honours research project.

The date was 5 June 2016. The family friend who had graciously funded my studies was brutally murdered. Another moment of impact. The months that followed that period were the darkest moments of my life. While I needed to grieve the loss we had suffered, I also had a research project that I had to complete and a degree to obtain. The financial struggles that come with being a university student dawned on me when I had to make the choice of whether I direct the bit of money I had towards paying my outstanding fees or if I was going to ensure I had a roof over my head, food and I was able to get to campus. I chose immediate survival. It is still a mystery how I made it through the year. 2016 taught me that I just might have underestimated my light. I completed my Honours and passed all my modules for the year.

In the midst of all the turmoil of 2016, I had always said that 2017 was going to be a great year but it started off seeming to go the opposite direction. I survived last year. I survived scrambling for rent. I survived the days of not knowing how I will get to campus. I survived living of the grace of people close to me who sent me money to get to campus and back when the casual jobs were quiet.

“There are moments of significance in your life, moments of impact…
these moments separate your life into two parts, before and after.”
- Oprah Winfrey

I survived, and I had another battle to fight. The battle of outstanding fees. This reality dawned on me when I received a letter from Wits congratulating me on completing my degree. The letter went on to explain that although I am legible to graduate in March 2017, I will not be able to do so unless my fees were settled or I was owing the university less than R15000. This was another moment of impact.

After I had knocked on many doors, I took to social media for help with raising funds to settle my outstanding fees. I owed Wits R30000. I went online and asked 300 people to each donate R100 to help me settle my fees. My story reached people through different avenues. It was an incredible moment of my life. A significant moment. I reached out to the Zenex Foundation, and their staff members donated towards my fundraiser. Strangers were sending me messages of support. People who saw my post helped me edit my CV. I was called for an interview in March this year. Even at that moment, the people that walked my journey to settling my fees were the ones helping prepare for my interview.

It is now July, I am three months into my position as a Graduate Development Planner at an engineering firm in Durban. On the 5th of June, I will graduate for my BSc. Geography (Honours). I think 2017 is turning out to be the great year I hoped for last year.

We all have our moments of impact. The task is upon us to maximise what comes from those moments. I am eternally grateful to so many people. I have accomplished many life lessons I have collected along the way. To the Zenex Foundation, thank you for the contribution you make to the lives of young people. To the beneficiaries of the programme, use the opportunities wisely. Let you light encourage others to shine.

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