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Zoe Dyasi Shweni was delighted to be selected to attend the Rotary ‘Find Your Voice’ Leadership Development Programme, which commenced at the beginning of the 2020 COVID lockdown.  Zoe, a Berea Garden’s Old Age Home HR Salary Administrator was working from home like most people and found that her time was more flexible, and she enjoyed connecting via the regular zoom sessions.

The University of Fort Hare B.Comm (Economics) graduate and mother of three hid away in her bedroom for some solitude, while hubby, Thanduxolo manned the fort. During the sessions, Zoe’s mind and heart were enlarged as she learned what it really means to be a leader. 

Zoe learned a lot from the program group leader; Greg Webb who shared that leadership is something you do from both the front and behind.  She was encouraged to lead from the front by setting an example and to lead from the back, by serving those in her team, even if they are difficult or see things differently from the way she does.

After September of the same year, the monthly sessions were held face to face as lockdown restrictions were eased.  Here Zoe connected deeply with the presenters, mentors and the other delegates and states that her life was changed for the good.  Zoe really resonated with programme guest speaker; Kim van Kets message about the importance of being resilient in life.

“Don’t be afraid to go out there and give even if it’s small.  Start where you are, with what you have,” says Zoe, when asked what her biggest takeaway was from the Rotarian program.

With these thoughts still fresh in mind, Zoe went on her annual leave earlier this year.  While on holiday, she spent time reflecting on possible ways to make a difference. 

Zoe, who grew up in Newlands near Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape, thought back to her own childhood days and remembered how she had absolutely nothing but a roof over her head and a few clothing items.  There was no money for luxury items such as sanitary products.  Zoe would use strips of cloth or newspaper, like most girls in her village during their menstrual cycle, as even toilet paper was too expensive for her mother who was a single parent raising four young adults at the time.

Remembering her own most personal need, Zoe decided to start her campaign by changing the world in her own backyard. 

When back at work, Zoe shared her vision with her boss and General Manager of Berea Gardens Ms. Samantha Goosen.  Goosen immediately passionate about the idea offered her full support and encouragement.  Zoe was given permission to ask all staff, residents, and visitors at the old age facility the opportunity to get involved by dropping sanitary products at the offices and guardhouses.

The response was overwhelming. 

Individuals and businesses have come on board and Zoe is now able to supply not only one but two schools with these much-valued items on a monthly basis and her project keeps growing!

Grade 5 – 7 learners at Newlands’ Mzonkeshe Primary School and Grade 8 – 11 learners at Ngwenyathi Senior Secondary are delighted to receive their life-changing gifts.  The learners are not only given back their dignity but they are spared from harmful infections and other complications which often results in their missing school for several days each month.  No young person should have to suffer like this in 2021, says Mrs. Qalinto, principal of Mzonkeshe.

Zoe says that we are all surrounded by needs and we simply need to roll up our sleeves and do something about them.  If we all do a little, it becomes a lot very quickly.  This is what it means to be a leader:  to empower everyone to lead in their own sphere and in their own way.  Great learning is taken from the ‘Find Your Voice’ programme.  Zoe was inspired by programme guest speaker Lou Billett of African Angels who said it is important to keep doing the right thing even when no one is looking and it’s not easy, as you not doing it for yourself but rather for the people who need it. To get involved in Zoe’s drive, please drop off your sanitary item donations at Berea Gardens or you may contact Zoe directly to get involved, her phone number is 078 700 0741.


You can view Zoe’s graduation presentation HERE