Tell us more about yourself.
I was born in Cape Town, but spent part of my childhood in George and part in Cape Town, before settling in Stellenbosch as a student and later as an employee of Stellenbosch University. My husband, Jean-François, is French. We have two children, Benjamin (14 years) and Emma (11 years).
You are based in Brussels…
We moved to Belgium 14 years ago. Before this, we lived in Germany and Switzerland. We relocated to Brussels when my husband was offered a job at the European Headquarters of a Japanese company.
Could you tell us more about your work in Brussels?
Brussels is a city that brings together many worlds. With the European institutions and NATO, the presence of international companies, the diversity in our host country and the poor immigrant communities, it can be challenging to move between the different “bubbles”.
I found volunteering to be a useful way to integrate and to learn French and Dutch. As a volunteer with Serve the City and Oasis Belgium, I was able to grow in my awareness and understanding of the many social, economic and cultural barriers – the “us” and “them” mentality –that exist in the city. I organised and participated in projects that showed practical kindness to those in need in our city. Through these projects, I came face to face with the homeless, asylum seekers, the elderly, people with disabilities, women who have been trafficked and underprivileged children. As the slogan of Serve the City states “We know them by their needs, what if we knew them by name?”
I also organised volunteering days and solidarity team-buildings for the European institutions and private sector in collaboration with grassroots non-profit organisations. The aim was to support meaningful community-driven initiatives which help to alleviate some of the hardships faced by those living on the margins of society and to help people cross those invisible, divisive lines present in the city. Today I have a very broad network in Brussels that cuts across all the different sectors.
What would you say is your passion in life?
What gets me out of bed in the morning is the idea that I can make a difference every single day. I focus on what contribution my work can make to improve the lives of others in some way.
I am a team player and firmly believe that success is something that you achieve with others. I like being part of something bigger and working towards a common goal, which will ultimately have a positive impact on society.
Nurturing friendships and relationships and making time for the small joys of everyday life top my priority list.
How do you remember your time as a Matie student?
I studied at SU during the exciting yet uncertain years when our country saw the demise of apartheid and then celebrated our first democratic election. Although my memories of student life are generally positive, the road was at times also very bumpy. Given my family background, I had some difficulty navigating relations with other black students. At the same time, often being the only person of colour in an all-white group, I found myself in awkward situations when white students made unthoughtful, sometimes hurtful comments about black people.
At undergraduate level and over a period of six years, I completed two BA degrees majoring in Music, Psychology, Political Science and Economics. I had the privilege of being taught by people like the legendary Sampie Terreblanche, Colin McCarthy, Jannie Gagiano, Hennie Kotzé, Acàma Fick and many others. I was also actively involved in student activities. Ultimately, all these experiences helped shape me into the person I am today. And soon I will be celebrating 30 years of friendship with my former Matie class mates!
What are your dreams and hopes for your future?
I tend to live in the moment. I have the opportunity now to represent Stellenbosch University. It is my intention to raise the visibility and profile of the University, reconnect with alumni and open as many doors as possible here in the Benelux countries. My approach is simple: Be fearless – opportunities are there to be taken. Don’t forget the human touch – it’s all about relationship building. I also focus on the long game as I would like to influence, succeed and make a difference for a long time. And if one day, I can spend extended periods in both Europe and Africa, this would be a delightful bonus.