Umzi Main

Umzi Wethu Training Academy

Umzi Wethu is a vocational training academy which prepares youth for positions in conservation and nature based careers. 

The Umzi Wethu (meaning “Our Home”) youth development training courses not only provides accredited training for previously disadvantaged youth, but also incorporates the following innovative elements: (1) a mentorship support programme; (2) access to wellness, group and individual counselling and psychological support; (3) assist the students with a paid internship placement and supporting them in securing jobs post training.

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A total of 481 students have successfully completed an Umzi Wethu training course since 2006.

Key Focus Areas and Objectives of the Programme

Resilience & Wellness (The Individual): To Improve the overall health and wellness (physical, psychological, social and spiritual) of all students to enable them to be economically active and productive.
Conservation (The Environment): To Improve the knowledge and respect for the environment through active engagement in conservation for vulnerable youth.
Active Citizenship (Community Development): To allow students and graduates to become socially responsible and contribute meaningfully to improve the communities they live in.
Sustainable Livelihoods (Financial Independence, Economic Growth): To provide the opportunity for graduates to attain a level of financial independence and stability from graduation and beyond.

Key Elements of the Programme include: 
  • Holistic and nature based social intervention projects
  • Empowering vulnerable youth with essential soft and hard skills to sustain livelihoods
  • Pathway development: e.g. employment and work internship placement as well as further education opportunities
  • Personal growth and development, leadership and environmental awareness

Profile of Target Group (Primary) Beneficiaries:

  • Vulnerable Youth between the ages of 19-26
  • Rural & Urban youth from informal settlement areas

Nationally the programme has recruited students from various townships– urban and rural informal settlements which are the most poor and vulnerable. The programme also strives to achieve a balance of female and male applicants. The key approach to selection is youth-centred while also recognizing the needs of employers, and involves partnerships with many community-based organizations (CBOs), local government agencies and schools. 




Contact Us

Meet Soso Sonwabile

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.

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.

Meet Nwabisani Hendricks


Meet Nwabisani Hendricks, a young South African who previously graduated from the Youth Development Programme of Wilderness Foundation Africa.  

Q. How did you hear about WFA and when was this?
I first heard about Umzi Wethu while I was still in my matric year in 2009. I didn’t have any plans after matric so I had enrolled and fortunately got accepted. 

Q. Tell us a bit about what was happening in your life before you started at Umzi Wethu?
During my matric year I was involved in a learnership programme where I was teaching the elderly how to write their names and sign contracts. I then made contact with a lady who worked at the social development department in Kirkwood. She told me about the programme at Umzi Wethu and thereafter I enrolled and was successfully accepted. 

Q. Tell us a bit about your time at WFA and the training you received?
My time at Wilderness Foundation Africa made me look at nature with a set of new eyes. I started to see the positive healing power of nature and grew my appreciation for it. I started learning about indigenous species and started to see the need to protect them. I was also introduced to the marine ecosystem and the significant role that marine animals play in the food chain.

Q. What did you like the most about Umzi Wethu?
What I really like most about Umzi Wethu is that it changed my mindset for the better. Umzi Wethu showed me that you can make an income from protecting species. Umzi Wethu also taught me to respect people as we all come from different backgrounds and we all need to work together to achieve a common goal.

Q. What was the key lesson that you learnt at Umzi Wethu?
The key lesson I learnt at Umzi Wethu is that all species in nature are dependent on each other and whether directly or indirectly they all play a role in the trophic pyramid. I learnt that there is a lot to learn and the more knowledge you have, the greater the obligation of being a custodian of nature.

Q. Where are you currently working and are you enjoying your job?
I am currently a marine field ranger. Part of my job entails checking that officials and people who fish have their fishing permits and follow stipulated regulations. It’s important to stick to these rules and if they catch more fish than they should the consequences can be severe, such an imbalance in the ecosystem. I am also an Environmental Management Inspector and work together with the Wildlife Operations Group where we work with law enforcement to protect nature and wildlife.

Q. What is your goal in life?
My goal is to teach young people in primary and high school about the healing power of nature and expose them to job opportunities within the wildlife sector. I want to be able to start a foundation where I too can help vulnerable youth and change a young person’s life for the better.

Q. What advice would you give to a young person?
Never be afraid to apply and try out an opportunity that has been presented to you. You never know how far that can take you. Lastly always have a positive attitude in life.


Umzi Wethu

Interesting Reading

Follow the links below to download some interesting case studies.

Andrew Muir: Rolex Awards for Enterprise
Umzi Wethu: Interview with Freddie

BLOG: Hospitality Intake 2017/2018 – An interview with Chef Kevin

One of Wilderness Foundation Africa’s projects is the Youth Development programme, where we seek to deliver holistic skills development and education interventions to equip vulnerable youth to be economically active and environmentally responsible citizens.

Read more.


ilderness Foundation Africa was privileged to be the caterer at a media event hosted at the Tramways Building in Port Elizabeth last night. The event formed part of the media launch of the VW Motorsport’s 2018 Polo Cup car.

Our Umzi Wethu hospitality students were given the opportunity to assist Development Chef, Kevin Gouws in the kitchen, as well as to be waitrons at this prestigious event. This activity forms part of their training through the Green Leaf Kitchen, and it affords the Umzi Wethu hospitality students an opportunity to gain experience in their chosen field.

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Umzi Wethu forms part of the WFA Youth Development Programme. The vision of this programme is to deliver holistic skills development and education interventions that harness the healing power of nature, equipping vulnerable youth to be economically active and environmentally responsible citizens.

Umzi Wethu has helped uplift well over 309 vulnerable youth in the Eastern and Western Cape who now have skilled fulltime employment in the conservation and hospitality industries.

Partners & Funders

  • Haberdashery
  • Hans H
  • Graham & Rhona Beck Foundation
  • Emp Logo 1280x960 Projection
  • Manicomio Logo
  • Specsavers
  • Sanp
  • Anglo American
  • Vwsa