“The difference between a broken community and a thriving one is the presence of women who are valued.” – Michelle Obama.
Women play a pivotal role in our communities and the GO!Durban Cycle Academy places enormous focus on ensuring that the women in our organisation are acknowledged, valued and supported.
This August, we celebrate Women’s Month by taking a closer look at the phenomenal women who keep the wheels turning at the GO!Durban Cycle Academy!
1. Andiswa Susan Dlamini: KwaDabeka Bike Park Site Manager
Susan was born and bred in KwaZulu-Natal. After her father passed away when she was just 12 years old, she went to live with the family where her mother was employed as a domestic worker and she remained with them throughout her high school years at Durban Girls’ High.
“Even though I was wearing a second-hand uniform because we couldn’t afford a new one, my Mom was determined to take me to that school because she wanted me to have a better education and better opportunities than her.”
After high school, Susan received a scholarship to Rhodes University, but there was no way she could afford to pay for housing, transport and food expenses as the bursary only covered the cost of tuition. So, Susan opted to stay close to home and go to the Durban University of Technology. In her first year, she unexpectedly fell pregnant with her daughter, but she did not allow that to deter her vision for her future. Instead, motherhood fuelled her to achieve even higher.
“My mom and daughter are the best investments in my life. Everything I do, I do for them.”
Susan started working for Durban Green Corridors (DGC) as an intern in 2012.
“I needed practical experience to pass my Diploma,” she explains. “I was so inspired by the community involvement and the youth programme at Isithumba and I wanted to bring that same inspiration to KwaDabeka because my passion is to develop communities.”
After convincing her mentor Gary Cullen to open a site in her own community, Susan became the site manager in the same year. Later, in 2015, she had the opportunity to spend time with Weltwärts, a development volunteer service in Germany, through DGC’s environmental sustainability partnership with the City of Bremen. This experience really formed the foundation of her expertise in managing youth programmes and how to liaise with local schools and other community stakeholders.
She came back to South Africa in 2016 where she played a critical role in the launch of the GO!Durban Cycle Academy bike park in KwaDabeka.
When asking Susan what her favourite part of her job is, she answers without hesitation – “Making a difference; having an impact in someone else’s life. We could have no budget and I’d still do it.”
“Without this academy, our kids would be playing on the streets – we’d have teenage girls who are pregnant and teenage boys involved in drugs and gangs. It’s a place where kids come to feel safe, where they are never judged, but they are able to be themselves and they are always pushed to become better.”
“Children are a reflection of the community that they come from and one day when they are businessmen and women or entrepreneurs, I want them to say: ‘if it wasn’t for that academy, I wouldn’t be here. It embedded the morals that I have, it kept me away from bad things and because of the academy I’m able to be a proud ambassador of my community.'”
And lastly her closing thoughts on the power of women: “I think women are underestimated a lot. I would love to see more female coaches; I would love to see our young girls growing up to be coaches and giving back to their communities as well.”
2. Nonhlanzeko Purity Mpanza: KwaDabeka Bike Park Site Assistant
From Left to Right: Sthabile, Mbali, Nomfundo, Nomonde and Nonhlanzeko (KwaDabeka Site Administrator)
Nonhlanzeko was also born in KwaZulu Natal, but growing up in the Apartheid era forced her parents and 3 siblings (two brothers and a sister) to move around a lot. She still lives with her parents today and is a mother to an eight-year old daughter.
“Growing up I wanted to be a psychologist, but as I grew older and I became a Mom I was drawn to kids so I decided to enrol for my BA degree in Education through UNISA, specialising in Senior Phase and FET.”
At the time when Durban Green Corridors was establishing their site in KwaDabeka, Nonhlanzeko was pursing her dream of becoming a teacher by gaining experience as a volunteer at the community nursery school on the site – Letukhanya.
Susan recruited her for the DGC job where she now fulfils multiple roles as the Site Assistant, Youth Programme Facilitator and Academic Coordinator.
Despite her quiet and calm demeanour, Nonhlanzeko’s enthusiasm for the youth in her community is unmistakable.
“Seeing the smiles on the kids faces when they come here blesses me every day. If children come here, they won’t be the same as the other kids in the community. We teach them respect, responsibility, to appreciate one another, and to love themselves.”
Her vision for the future of the GO!Durban Cycle Academy is to see at least one of the kids pursuing cycling professionally, but more importantly, for the youth to grow up to be successful and to come back and be an example to the others and show them that everything started here, at the academy, to motivate them.
Similarly to Susan, Nonhlanzeko goes above and beyond the description of her job title and is a trusted mentor to the kids, particularly the young girls.
“I want them to know that we are all human and we make mistakes, but the important thing is to rise above those mistakes and never think that some things are impossible – if you put your mind to it, you can achieve it.”
3. Nomonde Makwa: Inanda Bike & Tourism Park Administrator
Hailing from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, Nomonde moved to KwaZulu-Natal with her family in 2007. She started working for Durban Green Corridors in 2011 where she was trained as an Environmental Educator by Debbie Bennett and they worked alongside each other, going to schools to encourage environmental awareness and conservation among learners and educators.
Nomonde is married to Lonwabo Makwa who is the Youth Sports Coordinator at Inanda and together they have three children – a daughter (17) and two sons (14 and 7).
Nomonde’s role includes overseeing site operations and accompanying the kids to sports events, particularly the trail running team which is coached by Lonwabo.
“I love working with the kids and seeing their smiling faces when they come to the site!”
Although her background is in environmentalism and tourism, a love for sports has also rubbed off on her.
“I did my first trail run in May . I also enjoy road running and I do events like the Spar Ladies Run and Total Sports Women’s Race.”
Her unique blend of skills for environmental education and youth sports development makes this formidable wife and mom-of-three an invaluable asset.
“What we are doing for the youth is so important for the community and I want to make sure that our programme can empower them for the future, so that they can be successful even after they have matriculated and left our programme.”