On Friday, 3 October, 2014, Neil Fortuin, branch manager at Vision AfriKa Vlottenburg, officially completed his first three years of employment at the educational development NGO.
Working for Vision AfriKa was his first permanent job and one in which he found himself thrown into a strange, new world. We spoke to Neil about his experiences and what he has learned to date:
Q. How did you come to join Vision AfriKa and how different was it to what you had done before?
I was employed as a general worker with an engineering company, when a church group from Dublin, Ireland, started working with the Vlottenburg community where I grew up.
I was about 23 and doing voluntary child and youth development work when the church group mentioned my activities to Vision AfriKa’s management team. Vision AfriKa then approached me to work for them and the rest, as they say, is history.
I was initially appointed as a class coordinator, but because I’d never undertaken activities such as planning, facilitation, report-writing and the like before, the change to my life was dramatic.
I had thought that being a community leader would be enough to help me meet any challenge. But by moving out of my comfort zone, I discovered that I was actually being limited by my own attitudes and belief systems and it made me rethink my identity within my own community.
I discovered that when you grow up within a certain community, it can only teach you what it knows itself. But to some extent, that puts limitations on you as the rest of the world is very different.
Q. How long did it take to start feeling comfortable in your new role?
It took some time, but it was really about constantly reflecting on what had happened during the day and making the necessary changes with the support and help of colleagues.
But as I started to feel more competent in my role, I began to consider returning to Vlottenburg to start up a similar kind of youth programme although more sports-oriented. I found it hard constantly being out of my comfort zone but at the same time was getting too big for my boots.
Over time though, I realised that I could use my experiences to have an impact outside of my community too. But to do so, I really needed to unlearn and relearn a lot of things such as how I dealt with challenges in order to ensure that I made effective decisions. It was a difficult period of self-discovery, but necessary for me to develop and grow.
Q. When were you promoted to become branch manager at Vision AfriKa Vlottenburg and what have you gained so far from the experience?
After only a year, my hard work and persistence was rewarded with a promotion to the position of branch manager, with the idea that I would grow into th
The job entails running youth programmes and developing staff to become branch managers too. An important lesson that I’ve learned as a result is always to plan, implement, evaluate and review all areas of your work and personal life.
I’ve also found that the knowledge and experience gained from working for Vision AfriKa has had a ripple effect elsewhere in my life, bringing me new and positive opportunities and possibilities.
These include conducting qualitative individual or group interviews on psychological issues in rural communities for students undertaking their Masters degree in Psychology at the University of Stellenbosch.
But the main thing that I’ve learned so far is that you simply have to keep on going, even when the going gets tough. It’s the only way to develop and grow.
If you have any questions regarding my journey of development or info on the VisionV branch feel free to throw me a line on [email protected]