The SA College of Tourism, situated in Graaf Reinet, operates under the auspices of the international Peace Parks Foundation which is committed to, 'the development of human resources for sustainable economic development, the conservation of biodiversity, and regional peace and stability.'
The college helps fulfil this goal by providing skills development for youth from these transfrontier conservation areas, primarily hospitality training for young women and tracking skills for young men. Once the women finish their one-year training, 30 top graduates are absorbed into The Drostdy Hotel , a 5* boutique hotel offering the new trainees an excellent grounding in international tourism. Other graduates are placed with partner organisations back in their home provinces, such as Singita, Londolozi, Samara, Thornybush and SANParks. This ensures that local communities receive economic benefit from conservation and responsible tourism.
The college's hospitality training covers four main areas which are housekeeping, culinary arts, food and beverage, and managing the front of house. In 2014, the Old Mutual Foundation provided R400 000 funding towards hospitality skills training for 40 young South African women.
Two of the 2015 graduates who've completed their studies and are now working full-time at The Drostdy Hotel are Zizipho Ndwalaza (27) and Helen Sibuyi (29). Because Helen and Zizipho also graduated as the top students, these hardworking young women will receive a life-changing opportunity working for three months at an exclusive establishment in Porto Fino, Italy in 2017. Helen sums it up when she says, "Now I feel there is a lot of change. I feel blessed and happy. I'm doing what I love. Life is not about choices, it's about chances. And I grabbed this with both hands."
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Photography by the Old Mutual Foundation & Mark Wessels