The road to Camdeboo
Graaff Reinet is one of the oldest towns in South Africa and is situated in the Camdeboo district in the Eastern Cape. For many young women arriving here, it is a road to hope.
Our project visit to the SA College of Tourism actually started yesterday with a flight from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. After sorting out our rental car, we head away from the coast into the hinterland travelling along the R61. The three hour drive to Graaf Reinet takes us into the grey-green scrub of the Groot Karoo, which is dotted with spekboom, aloes and cacti with yellow prickly-pear fruit. It is unromantic yet strangely beautiful.
We are lucky enough to stay at the beautiful Drostdy Hotel, which isn’t something I’d normally mention except that the hotel forms part of this story because it is owned by the SA College of Tourism (SACT). Briefly, the SACT operates under the auspices of the international Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) which is committed to, “the development of human resources for sustainable economic development, the conservation of biodiversity, and regional peace and stability.”
The college helps fulfil this goal by providing skills development for youth from these transfrontier conservation areas, primarily hospitality training for young women and tracking skills for young men. Once the women finish their one-year training, 30 top graduates are absorbed into The Drostdy Hotel on a learnership programme, and other graduates are placed with partner organisation back in their home provinces, such as Singita, Londolozi, Samara, Thornybush and SANParks. This ensures that local communities receive economic benefit from conservation and responsible tourism.
The SACT hospitality training covers four main areas which are housekeeping, culinary arts, food and beverage, managing the front of house. Between visiting the SACT training venue and The Drostdy Hotel, Mark managed to hustle together some photos showing each of these aspects:
In 2014, the Old Mutual Foundation provided R400 000 funding towards hospitality skills training for 40 young South African women. Our visit means we get to meet two of “our” graduates who’ve completed their studies and are now working full-time at The Drostdy Hotel. Because Helen and Zizipho graduated as the two top students last year, they’ll also receive a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity working for three months at an exclusive establishment in Porto Fino, Italy in 2017. I am fascinated by the turn of events in the lives of these two young women and spend some time chatting with them…
SA College of Tourism’s two top 2015 graduates, Zizipho Ndwalaza (left) and Helen Sibuyi
Zizipho Ndwalaza (27) is from Queenstown, Eastern Cape. Before she came to Graaf Reinet, she was unemployed and feeling desperate. Through a friend she heard about the SACT and applied. When her application was accepted, she was overjoyed, “Yoh, I screamed, I was so happy. There was now a light in my life and I was determined to work hard”. Zizo said at first she battled with culinary arts and had to learn to love working in the kitchen. Her favourite thing is to work with guests in food & beverage and front of house. “I am so, so proud,” she says, “I worked hard and didn’t take things for granted. Now I can support myself and I don’t have to phone home for money for toiletries. I can even send a little bit of money home to my mum.”
Helen Sibuyi (29) is from Croquet Lawn in Mpumalanga. I check the spelling of Helen’s village three times because I thought I’d got it wrong. Nope, it is definitely Crocquet Lawn! Before this, Helen had been unemployed for a long time, and even though she’d started studying engineering, she’d been unable to finish due to student strikes. At first when she started at SACT she found it nerve-wracking as it was her first time away from home. She was also confused about her direction between engineering and hospitality, and wondered if she was doing the right thing.”But I remembered that even at home I always loved to cook, and in this course, working in the kitchen was my favourite section. Now I feel there is a lot of change. I feel blessed and happy. I’m doing what I love. Life is not about choices, it’s about chances. And I grabbed this with both hands.”
With kind thanks to our gracious host at The Drostdy Hotel, Executive Director of the SA College of Tourism, Andre Kilian.
And we’re off!
Growing green futures
For the love of reading
Paying it forward
In the heat of the moment
The road to Camdeboo
The light of one small candle
Investing for the future
The building blocks of business
A heart for horses
Mining for talent
My ability is greater than my disability
To be a nurse, you must be love
There’s no such thing as ‘the voiceless’
Mark my words
The place where the sun rises
Welcome to your future
Welcome to your future