32 year old Funeka Mani left her seven-year old daughter, her fiancé and other family members at her home in Boksburg, Johannesburg, to relocate to Nelspruit where she donated a year of her life to take up the position of Community Worker at SANCA Lowveld Alcohol and Drug Abuse Centre.
Having selflessly donated herself and her time to a number of worthy causes during her life, and with her Degree in Counselling and Honours in Psychology, Funeka was perfectly placed to fulfil the task at hand.
Funeka spent her year going to schools in the Lowveld area and implementing the NPO’s Teenagers Against Drug Abuse (TADA) and Children Against Drug Abuse (CADA) programmes and saw great results from the training. “Many children came to us after our talks to ask for help with their addictions and we were able to put them in therapy to assist their recovery. It gave me joy to see that we were changing these young lives.” But at the schools, Funeka encountered many children who went without a uniform and even shoes and so went on to raise funds for uniforms for them. “It was a beautiful moment when these little faces looked up at me, full of gratefulness and love.” Another great achievement was establishing the Peer Health Educators Project which minimised the stigma associated with HIV. “Single, unemployed and destitute women were selected and trained to speak to their peers and encourage them to go for testing and know their status. There are so many who needed their help and the ladies become pillars of strength and hope to their communities. This community faces countless challenges, but it was wonderful to witness the successful stories of hope, love and happiness which overshadows all else.”
After completing her year-long placement, Funeka returned home to complete her MBA and went on the job-search. She says her experience with the Vodacom Change the World initiative was not an easy journey and was probably the most difficult of her career, but that she would never change it for anything. “The Change the World project is the BEST thing that had ever happened in my career, it brought a lot of growth emotionally and spiritually, and if asked again, I would do it in a heartbeat. It gave me an opportunity to use my skills and to help those who needed a listening ear, a hug and some laughter. I met great people on my journey and they brought such joy to my life. When I went out there I was ready to go and change the world by contributing to Nelspruit, but little did I know, that my world was being changed.”