South Africa

After graduating as an architect at the TU Delft in 2006, I took my windsurf equipment and went to South Africa. The aim was to find a job and stay for a year (and if this would not be possible, I’d stay for a month to surf). With the 2010 Soccer World cup coming to South Africa, the architectural industry was booming and within a week I found myself in the luxury position to choose between jobs. I worked at 2 different architectural firms on several projects, ranging from a renovation of the Cape Town train station, residencies, a community building and the redesign of an old brewery into apartments. 

I had started my studies Architecture as an alternative to enrolling at an art academy which my parents did not approve. While studying, I already knew this was not my life goal. Getting a Masters degree looked like a good idea as long as I did not know an alternative. The study Architecture was creative, and creating spaces for human beings to meet each other was fun. Moving to South Africa was a step into the exploration of what it was I did want to do. 

Via the wife of the architect I worked for, I got to know about the Centre of Science and Technology in township Khayelitsha. Students from (all black) township schools were selected to be prepared for technical universities. They often dropped out of University. Mostly due to the lack of confidence, and the changed (black minority) environment at University. I started an ‘Art and Leadership’ course for the 150 students to strengthen confidence and work on presentation skills. It was one of the best things I have ever done in my life. I have learned so much from the students and we had a lot of fun. Thank you for your trust in me.

In 2009 we also started the project Students for Humanity together; Bridging the digital divide, one blog post at a time. Students each got their own blog in a multi-user blog site and we started a podcast towards the 2010 World Cup. The reasons to also start working ‘online’ with the students were three-fold:

  • bridging the digital divide
  • empowering students to have a voice (a continuation of our leadership program)
  • creating global awareness : connecting students worldwide

We tried to involve outsiders as much as possible;  Jan Folmer came to do a Podcast workshop,  Andre Vermeulen assisted with tech support, the passionate South African writer, Nonkululeko Godana joined the team to become a role-model and provided online writing classes. 

I had found my passion; working with youngsters, in a multi-cultural environment, around the topics of self reflections, leadership and art. I waved Architecture goodbye and started working as the coordinator for the small NGO Umthombo Wesizwe, with the mission to provide a platform for youth (11–15 years) from diverse communities in South Africa to develop an identity that will enable them to evolve as responsible citizens and ethical leaders within a multicultural society. We organized trainings for trainers and camps for children from different schools (and social/cultural/economical back grounds). 

While living in South Africa, I met a Zimbabwean refugee, Ephraim Ntlamo; a young boy who left Zimbabwe on his own, ended up in the Cape Town streets. He was smart, we organized schooling for him and funding to sustain himself. He lived with me for a few years. I learned a lot from him (dedication, inspiration, politics, friendship). Please follow Ephraim on his own blog here

In 2009/2010 my father became really sick, which was the reason for me to move back to The Netherlands. He passed away a month upon my return. It was a difficult decision as my life and projects were in SA, but I decided to stay in the Netherlands and try and live my passion here. In the end I lived in South Africa for 4 years, from 2006 – 2010.