CAREERS | Passion to empower fuels outreach initiative

In a bid towards fighting high levels of unemployment within the East London community, a Vincent-based woman has taken it upon herself to up-skill jobseekers and equip them as they wait for greener pastures.
Each evening from Monday to Wednesday, parts of the Vincent Methodist Church are transformed into ‘mini classrooms’ which give lessons in basic and elementary English, isiXhosa and basic computer skills. These sessions are spearheaded by Hester Browne, who works with her team of three – John Wesley, Annelma Bishop and James Matambo.
Together, the four plant seeds of hope in people’s lives by providing those with little to no experience in English and Xhosa reading, writing and arithmetic free basic education from the ground, as well as keyboard sessions for those who are keen on being digitally skilled.
The Daily Dispatch met up with the group at their Wednesday evening session. Browne said that since it was their first week for the new year, numbers would begin to pick up as the weeks went by.
Their classes have been running for 18 years, and although the subjects offered have evolved over the years, there is no end in sight for the enthusiastic team of teachers. The classes are an extension of the church’s outreach programme.
Browne said she was not a qualified teacher, and had landed up teaching English by sheer coincidence.
“We want serious and dedicated people who are committed because to us this is an actual school. Other people come and leave once they realise the amount of work that goes into this.”
She said their students comprised mainly of illiterate adults who had either stopped schooling at a young age or had never been at all, employed and unemployed. She said those who were working already attended the classes to improve on their knowledge, while the unemployed came to Browne and her team to help them become more employable.
“I have been placing domestic workers and gardeners for years now, with no charge involved. I’ve also helped people find work as cashiers, painters, hairdressers. Another lady I helped is now a secretary at [a bank]”, a proud Browne said.
She said jobseekers filled in forms which listed the kind of jobs they were looking for. Browne then made it her task to distribute the forms accordingly. She said she’d taken up social media to grow her search and help more people secure employment.
“I’d like all those still searching for jobs to know that no one will come knocking at your door. Get out there and do something. There are many ways to upskill yourself while you wait for a job,” she said.
She said their doors were always open for anyone looking to turn their life around in any way.
“We’d also love more donors to assist us, especially with computers, as there is a great demand for those,” she said.
One of Browne’s most dedicated students is Nolungile Sthethis. The 57-year-old woman started the English and isiXhosa classes seven years ago and has never looked back.
She said when she began attending the classes, she had never read or written anything in English.
“I’ve never been to school in my entire life, so I did not know how to read or write at all. I’ve seen a huge difference in my life, and that is why I keep coming back to these classes.”
She described learning a new word as “a miracle”.
“The greatest joy is being able to read the names of shops for myself, without having it read for me by someone else.”..

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