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Three tenacious young women from rural Mpumalanga have overcome obstacles to thrive in the tourism industry, empowered by the Good Work Foundation and making their mark at the beautiful Kruger Shalati Lodge.

 

Kruger National Park, South Africa (21 August 2023) – In the heart of Mpumalanga’s picturesque landscapes, a trio of young women are shattering barriers and crafting an inspiring tale of triumph in the realm of tourism and hospitality. Despite the uphill battle in a region grappling with staggering youth unemployment rates (as high as 65%), these spirited individuals are steering their destinies towards success rates that match no other.

Rooted in unwavering determination, sheer perseverance, and an indomitable spirit, the stories of Lwazi Thobela, Vutivi Mthimkhulu, and Mampho Makofane stand as beacons of hope for the youth of South Africa!

The young women have risen beyond the trials of their rural origins and etched their names into the bustling wildlife economy, nestling snugly in the embrace of the iconic Kruger National Park.

The lavish embrace of the Kruger Shalati private lodge, a retreat gracefully perched over the Sabie River in Skukuza, offers a unique stay in repurposed train carriages on a majestic bridge – a stark contrast to the modest streets of Mkhuhlu, some 40km away, from which these remarkable women hail. And yet, this very lodge, among many others in the Kruger National Park vicinity, is investing back into its local communities, extending a helping hand to these eager graduates through a partnership fueled by none other than the Good Work Foundation (GWF), a non-profit with five digital learning hubs dotting the Hazyview and Bushbuckridge region.

Rural Resilience: Mpumalanga's Young Women Blossom in Tourism Against All Odds!
Lwazi Thobela | Photo Cred: Good Work Foundation

One might argue that Lwazi Thobela’s dreams of culinary excellence were momentarily deferred when motherhood beckoned during her teenage years. But lo and behold, armed with the unflinching support of her GWF family, she gracefully balanced the roles of a nurturing mother and an aspiring chef. Rekindling her educational voyage at GWF’s Bridging Year Academy, she mastered digital prowess and honed job-ready skills, a potent cocktail for success in the rural terrain. Her journey continued at GWF’s Travel & Tourism Academy, where hospitality became her canvas. Lwazi’s path wasn’t without hurdles, but her steadfast resolve paved the way for an internship at Kruger Shalati, bridging the gap to a brighter, more permanent future.

“Previously, I’d had the opportunity to do chef training in Graaff-Reinet but had to decline because of family commitments. Then, when I was offered a position at Hippo Hollow Country Estate [in Hazyview], my child was sick and I couldn’t take up the position. But the Good Work Foundation kept in touch with me, constantly checking in to ask me how I’m faring, do I need assistance finding work, and so on.

“When the opportunity to do an internship at Kruger Shalati came up, Madam Tarshine [Mafuyeka, the GWF Hospitality Academy coordinator] phoned me to ask if I’m interested – and here I am! I’m hoping the internship [via the Youth Employment Service] will become permanent in time.”

Lwazi counts “being patient, being humble and working hard” among the personality attributes that have got her this far – that, plus the support of her GWF mentors who kept urging her to chase her dreams.

Rural Resilience: Mpumalanga's Young Women Blossom in Tourism Against All Odds!
Vutivi Mthimkhulu | Photo Cred: Good Work Foundation

Vutivi Mthimkhulu, the lady who seamlessly straddles the world of bartending and taxi ownership, serves as another symbol of empowerment. With her beginnings in GWF’s digital literacy program and a stint in hospitality management, Vutivi flourished into a bar magician at Kruger Shalati. Armed with computer know-how courtesy of GWF, she smoothly transformed into a barista extraordinaire before embracing her role as a bar maven. A stroke of financial savviness empowered her to become a taxi owner, a testament to her namesake – ‘Vutivi’ translates to ‘knowledge’ in Xitsonga. Her GWF certification became her compass for opportunities, turning her into a permanent fixture at Shalati, supporting her family, and nurturing her newfound business acumen.

“I can now firmly say that I am a businesswoman. My mom was so proud of me when I bought the taxi. She said to me, ‘This is why I named you Vutivi – your name means ‘knowledge’ [in Xitsonga], and you have shown that you really are knowledgeable.'”

Rural Resilience: Mpumalanga's Young Women Blossom in Tourism Against All Odds!
Mampho Makofane | Photo Cred: Good Work Foundation

Mampho Makofane, the cash register virtuoso at Kruger Station restaurant under Kruger Shalati’s umbrella, echoes the same notes of dignity and success. Since its inception two years ago, she’s been gracing the establishment with her presence. Thanks to GWF’s IT and Travel & Tourism Academies, Mampho’s practical wisdom landed her this cherished role. The paycheck she earned not only lit up her life but also kindled the pride of being the breadwinner for her family. With a cohort of fellow GWF graduates at her side, Mampho’s journey embodies the essence of community and shared achievement.

She says she loves working at Kruger Shalati, alongside a group of young people who also studied at GWF: “The other GWF staff here are my friends and family.”

Her advice to other young women is to “keep on pushing, keep on pulling your socks up, because one day you will get a job. GWF has improved my life; I never thought I’d be here, working at Kruger Shalati!”

“GWF graduates always impress us with their knowledge during interviews, and most receive Employee of the Month awards, nominated by fellow staff members – some more than once! We find they are great team players and can assist us across departments.”

Behind these stories lies the invisible thread that GWF weaves. With Vincent Mlambo, Kruger Shalati’s HR Manager, expressing delight at the numerous GWF graduates who’ve transformed into indispensable employees. Armed with theoretical foundations and GWF-fueled confidence, these graduates emerge as star players, earning accolades and showing prowess across departments.

Kruger Shalati forms just one vibrant note in the symphony of GWF’s achievements. The ecosystem of learning and work they’ve fostered cultivates young talents, propelling them from academies to careers. For a token commitment fee, Bridging Year Academy alumni master digital and employability skills, leading to GWF’s pivotal role in securing their placements in lodges like Kruger Shalati. An intricate partnership that lets Mpumalanga nurture its own talents, growing strong and resolute graduates who take up the mantle of family breadwinners with heads held high.

In the heart of the wilderness, a trio of young women nurtures a legacy of empowerment and resilience. With the Good Work Foundation as their guiding star, their stories echo across the plains of Mpumalanga, a testament to the power of education, empowerment, and the unwavering spirit of dreaming big amidst rural roots.

Rural Resilience: Mpumalanga's Young Women Blossom in Tourism Against All Odds!
Photo Cred: Kruger Shalati private lodge

Sources: Good Work Foundation | Trio of Young Women 
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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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