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Meet Soso Sonwabile

1

Where were you born?
I was born in 1988 on the 10th of December in a small town called Uitenhage, in popular township of Khayelitsha.

What was your favourite childhood memory?
My favourite and fondest childhood memory would be when it’s near month-end and my grandparents would come home and provide us with sweet treats to indulge in and savoury foods such as meat.

What was your environment like growing up?
Growing up was not easy at all for me. Unlike most kids who had both their parents present, I was raised by my grandparents. I was never privileged and didn’t received luxury items or toys, but I was always grateful as I received what I needed. I am thankful to my dear grandparents, as through God’s grace they sent me to school and made sure that I had food and a roof over my head. I also grew up in an era where apartheid was at its apex, so from a young age I became desensitized to acts of violence.

What high school did you attend and what was your plan after matric?
I attended high school at Molly Blackburn Secondary School in Uitenhage. My initial plan was to go to university and study sound engineering. After university I wanted to work and build a lovely home for my parents and look after them. Unfortunately things changed when I was in grade 7, as my mother passed away.

Please share with us the biggest lesson which you have learnt in life and consider valuable towards your upbringing?
Life has taught me a lot at a very young age and I would sum it up through five philosophies I live by. The first is always stay positive. No matter what happens, a positive mind set will get you going even if times are dark and you can’t see what’s ahead. Secondly, believe in yourself. A lot of people will doubt you, but if you don’t believe in yourself you will never see your value. Spend less time with friends. Friends are nice to have and a great to do things with, but as you get older your priorities start to change and if you want to get things done, you have to make time for the tasks you set yourself. Work hard. There is no substitute for hard work so get the job done no matter what the task. Lastly, listen to your elders. Older people have more knowledge and if you listen to their words it will help you avoid certain setbacks in life and help you progress faster in achieving your goals.

Tell us about your time at Wilderness Foundation Africa
I had one of the best times of my life at Wilderness Foundation Africa. I have met different people with different characters and I have learnt how to work in a group. During my time at Wilderness Foundation Africa, I became an Umzi Wethu graduate and have enjoyed each and every task which was given to me in this programme. I have gained my confidence back and the hope I had lost in life. I would like to compliment the management at Wilderness Foundation Africa, as they were there for me every step of the way and I would not be where I am today if it were not for their continued support and guidance. Being an Umzi Wethu graduate has changed my life and been a huge springboard for my professional career.

What did you learn during your training and the qualification you received?
The qualification I obtained was a professional cookery certificate. My mind has been broadened and I have learnt how to make a variety of good quality dishes. This programme has instilled in me the confidence and skill to stand in front of people and talk to them which I couldn’t do before. I also received the privilege to explore and observe nature through wilderness trails that were offered. These trails helped me feel one with nature and spending a few days in the bush helped me to become more aware of self and clear about the future I want.

When did you graduate from the Umzi Wethu programme?
I graduated on the 7th of August 2009 and was officially part of Umzi 5.

Where are you currently working and are you enjoying your job?
I am currently employed and working at Windermere hotel in Humewood, Port Elizabeth as a chef. Yes I enjoy my job and get to get up every day and grow my expertise in the kitchen.

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What advice would you give to youth?
The advice I would give to young people is never stop learning and always be positive. Take every advice whether it’s bad or good as a learning curve and respect other people’s opinions. There is always an opportunity to learn, so never take any moment for granted. Always ask questions if you are confused or unsure; and lastly never take a decision because other people are taking it. Take your time and do thorough research where you can. Don’t fall for peer pressure.

What are your plans for the future?
My long-term plan is to own my own hotel here in the windy city of Port Elizabeth. I have been able to create a small menu for my Grillers Café in Uitenhage and I plan to do a mobile kitchen where I can cater for funerals, business meetings and lunches, sport events and so on. I would love to be a private chef where clients call book me and travel the world doing what I love.

Umzi Wethu

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