“As a mentor, it is my duty to be a trusted advisor, coach, supporter, cheerleader, friend, motivator, and confidante. When meeting my mentee I understood why we were paired as we are exactly the same in a lot of ways. Despite our similarities, though, we are different in a lot of ways too. She has and managed to change my perceptions about gender, religion, race and culture. This has forced me to do a lot of introspection and get to know myself better.”
First Rand Mentor Testimonies
“I have always known it but never said it out loud to myself; I am empathetic, I feel a lot what people are feeling and not saying and I’ve accepted that this year. It has opened me up to a whole lot of different discussions. It has helped me on my journey here at work. I offered to help someone at work and I know I don’t have the time but I wanted to do it.”
“I didn’t realise how much my mentorship is worth to my mentee until she started sending me emails, thanking me for what I have done for her.”
“The best moment in this process was when my mentee Barbara told me she is going to become the President of South Africa!”
“It was nice when we broke the wall between us, it started when we talked more and the wall came down. That was my ‘aha’ moment, I was humbled when she started trusting me.”
“I was inspired by my mentee never mentioning her disability as a challenge. She is always positive and never ever complains.”
“The act of giving to one person has also inspired me to commence giving to others and I have become a mentor to a number of other young ladies at work.”
I was inspired by these words from my mentee about the mentorship process:
“I’m very grateful and appreciate what Khulisa’s programme has done to me; it was the best thing that ever happened to my life. The programme has given me a friend,
a mother, a person I can talk to whenever I want to.”
“The act of giving to one person has also inspired me to commence giving to others and I have become a mentor to a number of other young ladies at work.

Changing lives – the back-stories

Mrs Nkosi has lived all of her life in the rural village of Luphisi outside Nelspruit in Mpumalanga. She first became involved with Khulisa through a programme initiated by a businesswoman who had grown up in the area and wanted to give back to the community. Mrs Nkosi and three local youths were the first to receive training in micro farming.

They assumed responsibility for the roll-out of the project and, over the next three years, gave more than one hundred community members the knowledge and skills needed to develop and sustain their own gardens. Mrs Nkosi recently participated in the pilot phase of a Moringa farming project in the region, successfully growing the trees at her homestead and selling healing Moringa powder locally and to Khulisa. She used the profits to build a restaurant on the main road, in which she serves delicious homemade food, and a variety of baked goods and ice creams to tempt the local school children.

Busisiwe and I were paired at a lunch a year ago. It was difficult to tell who was more nervous, the mentees or the mentors. We played icebreaking games, were paired with our mentees and then had an opportunity to chat to them over lunch. As with any new relationship, there were lots of questions and answers as we tried to find out more about each other.

I immediately felt a need to support her, build her up and to protect her. We send whatsapp messages to each other, checking in and sharing news about what is happening in our lives. We also managed to meet up a couple times (arranged privately and through Khulisa). I’m looking forward to taking her to TLC Children’s home to play with the babies in the near future. I’m also hoping that I will hear more about her progress in the learning initiatives that this program is offering.

Martin was one of the first offenders at Leeukop Prison to volunteer for the Khulisa Programme almost two decades ago. He admits that losing his father at the age of sixteen turned him into an angry young man susceptible to getting involved with crime. While serving his final sentence, he reached out to Lesley Ann van Selm, founder of Khulisa, and so began their seven-year journey in mentorship.

Martin, now forty years old and living in his hometown of Soweto, is using the knowledge and skills he gained at Khulisa to pursue the goal of reinventing lives through his own organisation. The Taursrac Foundation is located in Kliptown, Soweto, an area plagued by high crime, unemployment and poor service delivery. Martin’s vision is to empower and uplift the community though the establishment of various micro-enterprises including vegetable gardens, recycling projects and the manufacture of shoes and ceramics. Another of the main goals of the Foundation is to support and motivate the youth of Soweto to avoid crime and develop skills and resilience.


Linda Zwane, a livestock farmer in Mpumalanga, made it his business to introduce 120 young, black women to livestock husbandry on his farm, as well as mentor those that requested his guidance. His confidence in the opportunities for black women in agriculture is now reaping extraordinary rewards.
After spending time on Linda’s farm, 40 of the 120 women expressed keen interest in farming. Of these 40, 28 were granted scholarships from Monsanto through Khulisa Social Solutions to study at the Buhle Farmers’ Academy. The Humulani Trust paid the considerable extra transport costs necessary for the livestock students’ practical training. According to Linda, these young women are now primed for success.

Power in numbers
Under Linda’s guidance, these 28 women have formed a co-operative and applied to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform for a farm. The department is currently considering the application.

“These young women have every chance of success”, says Linda, “as they have been trained not only in farming by the Buhle Academy, but also in financial literacy, business management and the many life skills needed to farm as a collective.”


Linda will continue to mentor the group once they have acquired a farm. The aim is to obtain enough land for them to divide the farm into four components, and work in four groups of seven. The first group will concentrate on the beef cattle and goat components of the operation, while the second group will focus on sheep and dairy cows.

The third will focus on the piggery, and the fourth on vegetable production.

“Even now, I have spoken to farmers around me and told them that if they want help with branding or vaccinating their cattle, I will bring these young ladies, and they will do it,” says Linda.

“Some of the farmers didn’t believe they could, but I said, ‘bring your bull, and we will show you.’”

Empowering women farmers to give back
Linda was the top achiever of his Buhle Academy livestock class when he graduated in 2013. This year, he was nominated for the Star of Buhle, which was awarded at the June 2017 graduation ceremony at the Buhle campus in Piet Retief, for successfully building a farming business.

Coincidently, his mentees were graduating on the same day. He has also since received an achievement award from the mayor of the Majuba district where he farms.

He regrets the fact that “our forefathers didn’t transfer their knowledge of farming to us,” he says. “I have three children, two of them adults now, and none of them are interested in farming. But there are so many opportunities for young black women in agriculture these days. I said to myself, ‘I must transfer all the skills I have to anyone who needs them.’”

The young women went to Buhle after taking part in a year-long Global Give Back Circle programme run by Khulisa Social Solutions.

This is an education and empowerment programme in which they gain life and financial skills, computer literacy and other skills, and are mentored over time. The idea is to empower students to embrace the programme’s “give-back” philosophy.

A friend of Linda’s wife put him in touch with Tine Cornellie, of Khulisa. After speaking with Tine, he offered to take the young women to his farm in groups, to assess their interest.

“I thought at the time that even if I was only left with seven, I would be happy,’” he says.

Once at Buhle, 21 of the young women studied livestock production, and seven studied vegetable production.

“Only one dropped out of her course at Buhle. The rest did very well,” Linda said. The women, once a little afraid of hooves and horns, are now unbeatable in the kraal.

The students formed such a strong bond with their livestock trainer at Buhle, Gert Steenkamp, who also trained Linda, that they refused to graduate until he arrived at the ceremony. They even composed a song about him, which they sang in a jubilant dance.

“The youngsters whom I train don’t usually leap in boots and all. But really, I was surprised by these girls,” said Mr Steenkamp, who speaks three African languages and communicated with the young women in their home language, Zulu.

“They were such hard workers that some of the men struggled to keep up. They are tough and intelligent, every one of them. My students all become like my kids, but this group was special. They have made me proud. There are strong leaders among them.”

Nelly Shezi, 25, one of the students said: “My life was an utter disaster just over a year ago. I have two children and was the breadwinner in my family, but I had been retrenched from my job as an electrical technician. It was difficult, very difficult. Now I am excited. Life is much brighter, and it’s getting better and better all the time.

“The co-operative is very good, because we work as a team. We bring up ideas, show each other things, and nobody is wrong. I wish that other young ladies could see that agriculture is good; it is perfect. It can change our lives. It can change the economy.

In encouragement to other aspiring female farmers, Nelly says: “If you can push in agriculture, do it, because that is where the job opportunities are. If farming is what you like, then you really can do it!’”

Credits: https://www.farmersweekly.co.za/agri-business/empowerment/linda-zwane-empowering-women-farmers-mpumalanga/

Noel Kirk
Born and educated in London. At the age of 17 won job on the reporting staff of the Croydon Advertiser series of newspapers, South London and studied journalism at the Balham and Tooting College of Commerce; five years news reporting/editing, writing features and film reviews in London provinces for mixed social readership.

Started to paint, sold first serious painting through Liberty`s, London: worked on commissions, including two painting for High Court, Strand, London and for Watneys brewery, SW London. Set up the Writing Studio ghosting-writing in-depth private autobiographies for a mixed clientele, ranging from semi-aristocrats to orphaned Barnado Boys.

In July 2016 Noel reached out to Khulisa Social Solutions regarding mentoring a group of young people in creative writing. Two months later, his mentees have developed a solid relationship with him.

“I wish that the youth of my community can one day get the opportunity to be introduced to this great guy. It took me just a few days and a phone in my hand to obtain such a great lesson”. Martin Mahlamvu

“Mentorship in creative writing from Noel Kirk has been a great experience, it really feels good to have someone whom you can share your experience and life stories with and who is willing to land an ear and give guidance. I really feel touched with inspiring words and encouragement he always gives to me on daily basis”.
Thulani Dlamini

The next phase of the relationship is with a group of young adolescents who have been in conflict with the law, to co-create the sequel of “Under the Rainbow“ through a therapeutic storytelling process during the December holidays as part of the aftercare programme, with Noel overseeing the process from the UK.

The cover of “Under the Rainbow” has been reproduced in the form of 30 original prints which will be signed by PJ Powers and are being sold to cover the costs involved in phase two of our journey with a man who reached out across the world to share his years of knowledge and skills.

“I have learned so much from this experience” says Noel. I never, at my stage of my life, believed this to have been possible.”


Lesley Ann van Selm, Managing Director and Founder of Khulisa Social Solutions, and Noel Kirk finally meet to share experiences and for Noel to hand over his original prints to Khulisa.

How it began …

My story with Khulisa began nearly 20 years ago with a call from the founder, Lesley Ann van Selm.
She explained that she had developed a programme to rehabilitate youthful ex-offenders; and had arranged a pilot group of these young offenders from Leeukop prison in Johannesburg to be paroled into her care.
Whilst I was filled with admiration for Lesley Ann’s latest endeavour towards saving the world, her next request took me somewhat by surprise.
“Please come and meet these young men,” she pleaded, “They are amazing people, and I would really like you to consider taking on three of them on as interns in your company.”
“Have you gone completely barking mad?” is the way I remember my response.
My company was, after all, an extremely conservative recruitment and human resources organisation, at that stage specialising in placing senior management and executive candidates. How on earth could I justify bringing former inmates into such a set up?
Needless to say, in her very special and persuasive way, Lesley Ann, talked me into meeting a group of these former offenders, and of course I was deeply touched and impressed by their sincerity and their passionate wish to make the very most of their second chance.
So that’s the story of how three ex-offenders came to be employed by my company as interns for a period of two years, some twenty years ago!
It wasn’t all plain sailing.
Integrating three young ex-prisoners with precious little education and no social skills into my company took a great deal of patience and effort. And I had a lot of explaining to do with my staff.
Dianna (not her real name), a bookkeeper in my company, said, “My son is a good boy, he has matric, he has never done terrible things like these boys and he can’t find a job.”
She asked, “Why didn’t you give him an opportunity instead of them?”
Dianna asked a very good question, a hard one to answer. How could I explain my personal justification to her? I wanted her to understand that rehabilitating ex-offenders is essential if we are to prevent them from returning to crime. And that this is a problem for all of us. But how could I blame her for feeling that her son had been unfairly deprived of an opportunity?
Then there was the issue of GIRLS. Three young men in their prime deprived of female company for six years. They literally gaped and drooled at the women in my offices. And since my staff complement was predominantly female, there were many complaints.
And so the coaching, training and mentoring began. It began with the simplest things like social etiquette, and gradually moved to more complex skills and tasks. One of the boys showed great aptitude for Excel. We helped him to develop his Excel and other IT skills, and at the end of two years we placed him with our biggest client. He is now in a management role, married with three children, and has achieved the happy, successful life he craved.
Another became Executive Chauffeur to a client, who in turn recognised his skills and has also helped him to develop and grow both personally and professionally.
The third was a talented runner. We bought him his first running shoes.
In short, each of these former inmates has created a new life for himself. And this success would not have been possible without extensive coaching, mentoring and training from both Khulisa and the people within my organisation.

Much later ….

Approximately 6 years ago, at a Khulisa board meeting, Lesley Ann asked me to coach, assist and mentor, Mr Moses Letsoalo, the founder of Aga Sechaba, an organisation which he created and funded to assist young people suffering from substance addiction in the Atteridgeville area, near Pretoria.
Moses’ story is an interesting one. He was born in 1978 and grew up in the deprived township of Atteridgeville through 16 years of apartheid. This is his story:

“I remember curfews, police breaking down doors into houses, and countless acts of violence that doubtlessly seriously affected my childhood development. With this background it seemed a natural progression for me to turn to crime, violence and drugs. At the age of 13 I was serving the first of 13 custodial sentences, and at 15 I joined the infamous prison gang 28”.

When he was 23 Moses began to work as a drug mule for a large syndicate based in Johannesburg. Making four to five trips a year, he thought he was living the high life. But when he was caught smuggling 60kg of Marijuana into Heathrow Airport in 2008, it was an experience that changed his life completely. He served two years in Her Majesty’s Prison Wormwood Scrubs, received training and accredited qualifications in Life Skills, Health and Safety in the Workplace, and furniture assembly.

“Two years in prison, away from my wife and infant daughter, having to deal with the heart-breaking experience of explaining on the phone why Daddy couldn’t come home, not even for a day, was what helped me finally begin to understand the damage I had done to other people’s lives.”

When he was released and returned to South Africa he was a “man on a mission” to make a genuine, positive difference in his community. Inspired by a desire to reverse his previously destructive and harmful influence, he founded an NPO called Aga Sechaba (“Build the nation”), which focusses on drug awareness campaigns.

“I believe I am living proof that crime and drugs can be beaten against all odds.”
• In 2014 he was awarded Most Inspiring Person on a six-month Leadership Development course through Common Purpose (www.commonpurpose.org.za) which was hosted around South Africa in different communities. He was also selected to represent South Africa in India, Brazil, Cuba, Israel/Palestine, Italy, Kenya on a Leaders Quest (www.leadersquest.com) where 120 leaders from around the world exchanged leadership qualities.

“I wanted to build, rather than destroy” – Moses Letsoalo

Suffice it to say, I was moved and inspired by Moses’ story, and by the passion and determination of the man himself, and so I agreed to take him on as mentee/coachee and help him to bring his idea to life.
When we started our sessions together, Aga Sechaba wasn’t much more than a concept. Moses and I worked together for 4 – 5 hours per week, every week for almost a year. In addition, much discussion took place via email and telephone. At the end of the year, Moses and I calculated that we had spent more than 300 hours together, communicating in some way.
And, most gratifyingly, by the end of that year, Aga Sechaba, had become a reality with proper governance, offices, staff, board of directors, a clear vision and business plan, and then finally, after much discussion, mountains of documents and many applications, funding from the Department of Social Development.
My relationship and work with Moses inspired me to change my career direction and to become a Business & Life coach. And so I undertook and completed studies to become certified and qualified for this new venture and founded my company, Idea Alive SA, three and a half years ago.

Weaving through it all ….

As an NPO Khulisa Social Solutions has faced, and continues to face, many difficulties, problems and challenges. It has been my privilege to work with Lesley Ann and with her team and associates over the many years of my involvement with the company.
Acquiring funds to support the very important programmes offered by Khulisa is an ongoing challenge and requires great innovation and energy on the part of Lesley Ann, the passionate and dedicated managing director.
Khulisa’s work amongst hurt, damaged and sick communities is essential if South Africa is ever to heal itself. And I am consumed with awe at the time and energy that Lesley Ann and her team devote to this work, often with very little or no reward, other than the satisfaction of the work itself.
So my work with Khulisa over the years has involved much focus on coaching and mentoring Khulisa staff and associates both inside and outside the organisation, to help them find strength and resilience when the going really has been tough.
Right now we are involved in developing a number of projects to find ways for Khulisa to generate more revenue and to reduce its dependency upon government funding towards becoming independently, financially sustainable.
But that’s another story!

Mathibedi Nthite
The Lapeng Child and Family Resource Service located in Joubert Park was founded in 1997 to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children and their families in the inner city of Johannesburg. However, due to insufficient resources, the centre became a derelict and hazardous facility with dilapidated buildings, no electricity and insufficient equipment, which posed a threat to the safety and development of the children.

Mathibedi is the principal of the school.

“I was mentored by Donna whilst participating in a management programme provided by Khulisa. This was totally a new space for me. I started learning what it’s like dealing with people and understanding their dynamics, their baggage that they take with to work, their responsibilities. I had to be on time for meetings, ensuring that the centre is run properly, meeting with kids, parents and staff. I had to remind myself that I have a goal and not to look back and take criticism. I have learnt to be open to challenges through the years and was put on a management programme by Donna.”

11th August 2017

For Samke Magubane Dube, a thirty eight year old mentor living in Newcastle, the most important thing during her first year of mentorship was to establish a genuine relationship with her mentee. This is an organic process and must be allowed to happen naturally. It makes Samke happy that her mentee is interested in her as a person and ‘likes the way she does things’. In return, her mentee can talk to her about whatever she pleases, and her mentor will listen and advise her if she can. Samke was proud when her mentee chose to pursue a career in health, and has enjoyed following her progress and growth as a person. She sometimes asks her for medical advice. Samke feels her role as a mentor has helped her be a better mother to her own twelve year old daughter. Mentoring has taught her to listen and be supportive, and to encourage people, especially young women, to be independent and make good decisions. It has given her insight into the challenges faced by young women in South Africa today, and respect for their strength.
Alexina, Samke’s mentee, who also lives in Newcastle, was initially not very interested in having a mentor. However, when she met Samke, who worked near her school, she quickly realised how alike they were, and grew to respect and look up to her. Samke treats Alexina as an equal, and has helped her to have confidence in herself and to learn from her mistakes. She is open with her about mistakes she herself has made. When Alexina had doubts about her ability to become a nurse, Samke encouraged her to give it a try.

Lindokuhle – US Mentor
Lindokuhle lives in Newcastle, and is being mentored by somebody in the United States. Despite the distance between them, her mentor has become a kind of surrogate mother to her, as her own mother is deceased. Lindokuhle talks with her mentor about everything young girls usually share with their mothers. Lindokuhle: “my mentor has changed my life, as I know have someone to confide in and to ask for advice. She gives me guidelines of how I should be strong and trust myself that I can do anything that I want to do in life. She taught me how to solve problems and get out of bad situations. She’s been in my life for more than a year now and I’m very grateful to have my mentor in my life.”

Mentoring a young person helps build a strong society – here is how to get involved.
Peter Masondo was a desperate young man. He was struggling to come to terms with being HIV/AIDS positive and wasn’t receiving support or acceptance from his family. In 2007 he locked the house he shared with his uncle and tried to make his own life. Fortunately caring neighbours came to his rescue. They phoned the police who broke down the door, they took the distraught young man to the police station where a kind inspector decided to get involved in Peter’s case.

He phoned Junius Kapaso, a volunteer at Khulisa Crime Prevention Initiative who came to the police station immediately to talk to Peter. Over the next few hours the young man unlocked some of his feelings of pain and rejection in the presence of this listening ear.

Junius kept in touch with Peter and continued his support. Peter is now Chairman of his support group and a team leader in his community his door-to-door HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. He shares his story with young people in his community.

Thanks to his friendship with his mentor Peter once again has dreams for his future and Junius says his young friend has become a ‘role model in his own right.’

Mentors such as Junius play an important role in society.

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