Rotary Youth Leadership
Some 30kms from King Williams Town lies a tiny village called KwaShushu, where nothing much happens – save for the annual Easter rugby tournament.
With a population of just over 100 people, according to the last Census, KwaShushu is the quintessential story of rural life in the Eastern Cape – with poverty, unemployment and substance abuse rife within the community.
But one young man is determined to change that, one step at a time.
And as the sun rose on the morning of the 16th December 2018, Abongile Zaza realised his dream as the residents and friends of KwaShushu B were preparing for a very important event.
The Rural Cancer Awareness Fun Walk and Run, in loving memory of his late mother, was a milestone in the leadership story of Abongile.
Abongile joined the Find Your Voice Rotary Leadership Programme in March 2018. Working as a technical assistant at Isringhausen, Abongile was encouraged by his line manager, Greg Thompson to apply for the leadership programme. When he looks back on that day, Abongile says:
“I was really not ready, like the timing was very bad for me because my mother was in and out of hospitals at that time. She was in the last stage of cancer. But on the application form they had a very powerful slogan which said “Find your voice” and that was exactly what I was looking for and I said Yes and I applied.”
He joined 21 other delegates on a crazy adventure that culminated 9 months later in the race that he organised in KwaShushu, supported by his leadership class of 2018. The rural areas are without adequate information to detect early warning signs of cancer that could save their lives. That is exactly why Abongile decided to organise the cancer awareness fun walk and run.
“In the process of trying to find my voice, I actually found myself, my vision and the purpose of life. It has now been 11 years shifting/drifting around trying to find myself, my vision.”
Experience from The Rotary Leadership Programme suggests that successful leadership takes more than just skills from a course or a programme. Leaders need followers and for leaders to realise their potential, they require support on their journey of leadership. They need a platform, in the form of a network of caring people, that show up for them and contribute to their success. The Rotary Club of Gately and the Leadership Development Institute (LDI) Trust are committed to providing the network, the tools and the skills for young adults to not only meet the challenges of the future, but the immediate challenges facing our province.
In his final presentation, after the completion of the course, Abongile says
“Special thanks to facilitator Guy Rich for not forcing me to talk, you’ve been awesome. To Marc Morrel for rescuing me and Rooks Moodley for empowering me to chase my vision even though it was so big. To Chris Ettmayr, my mentor, thanks for the guidelines and support. And to my workplace sponsor/mentor Greg Thompson, thanks for this wonderful opportunity. And thank you to Gately Rotary & Rotarians.”
The 7 month course forms part of the greater Find Your Voice Project – in which two critical aspects of leadership are measured. The first is individual growth of the delegates, through assessment of cutting edge leadership methodologies known as Leadership Fluencies. The second is the number of initiatives led by these young people, either in their respective businesses, or in the community.
Although Abongile is committed to this journey, he realises it is not going to be without obstacles. “Now I know what I want to be, but I have to give myself a chance to go back to school, I need to invest in me, unfortunately I can’t quit work so I’ll have to do it part time,” he says.
As he joins the newly established Alumni Group under the leadership of Rotaractor Nitesh Harry from the Class of 2017, we hope to continue to strengthen the support base. We are continually looking for leaders in the East London community who are willing to mentor the young adults that are selected for the programme. Abongile’s Rotary mentor, Chris Ettmayr reflects on how rewarding mentoring is . “It’s been a real privilege for me to be involved in Abongile’s time on this programme and he has given us inspiration, instead of us just imparting knowledge to him. He had some challenges that he has handled in a very mature manner and now with the new leadership skills and techniques that he has picked up from this course, I am sure that he will thrive to even greater heights. Abongile is self-motivated, which made it very easy for him to take up new opportunities. I am very keen to see where he moves from here onwards as a solid alumni of the course and a leader in his respective areas of business and home life.”
When Winter Rose take to the field, to represent KwaShushu village, at the rugby tournament over the Easter weekend, Abongile will not only be rooting for this local team. He will also use his voice to raise awareness about cancer.
“Nothing much happens in my village except for the Easter rugby tournament. That's another reason why I chose to organise the cancer awareness fun run around December. Most people didn't understand the idea behind it and wanted to see how it would turn out. The next one will be even bigger,” says Abongile.