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Nwabisa recently joined Routes to Resilience as Programme Coordinator, and is integrally involved in the roll out of the accredited Sygnature Award. Here she shares her experiences of her first three months at R2R.

The past three months have been a journey of self-discovery for me, both personally and professionally.

I grew up in a small, intimate town called Alice, with no traffic robots, multinational chain stories or big double-storey buildings, where you knew almost everybody or at least recognised them going about town. Moving to Cape Town, I was therefore immediately struck by the busyness of the fast-paced lifestyle. But the city’s spatial inequalities have made a particular impression on me. Poor and working-class families have such limited access to basic services, sharing temporary toilets, water taps and struggle with poorly connected public transport to the city’s central businesses and industries that offer the most employment opportunities. Of course, as a Geography major, I had learnt about this, but being in the city and seeing it for myself has been an eye-opening experience. It is one that leaves me feeling discouraged, with complex emotions about the privilege that I have to explore the delights and attractions of the city when so few get to enjoy and thrive in it. These feelings make me feel even more driven in my work, giving me energy to lift up and empower those who are less fortunate than me to transform their communities by taking action, while having the knowledge and skills that will allow them to become a new generation of hopeful, talented and inspiring young leaders.

Navigating your career in your twenties can involve moments of confusion and vulnerability, especially when embarking on new ventures. For some of us, this includes overthinking about what your future will look like, doubting your capabilities or wondering what others think of you.

Despite personal tragedies, and the anxiety-igniting heavy and gloomy energy that has been looming ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began early last year, I started my job with all of my ambition and best intentions. Almost immediately, I started making mistakes, mistakes which I now consider key career learning moments.

 

Mistakes are an important part of learning and growing – there is no greater teacher than failure, because it helps us to explore what we can do better next time.

 

At the beginning, I used to feel anxious, mainly because I felt like I was out of my comfort zone and I feared that I would make mistakes. I eventually reached a point where I had to reflect and make a decision, because I realised that I needed to be present and enjoy this journey and not focus my energy on overthinking and fearing the unknown; I was actually doing myself a disservice.

 

Perseverance, curiosity and building relationships with my colleagues, our programme participants and our partners have been at the heart of my journey and have helped me to overcome moments of self-doubt.

 

I have also felt the importance of daily personal reflection as a way to reconnect with my ’why‘– the passion that I want to drive my career and life path. I have taught myself that every day is a new opportunity to learn and improve my skills.

I’ve also learned to not be afraid to ask questions to find out if something is normal, or to reach out to mentors for career advice. I believe that this mindset shift has contributed to me performing better in my role. I work with an amazing women-led team who are all uniquely talented and consider personal development and training as a high priority for employees. I value our monthly catch-up sessions that sometimes unearth uncomfortable conversations on topics like diversity and inclusion. Such conversations are critical to the success of a company; after all, I believe that greatness cannot be accomplished individually.

Along with my defined duties, I engage in a set of tasks that I never imagined I would be capable of doing. Literally every week is different! Some highlights of this three-month whirlwind are: developing and internalising my own understanding of the programme’s pedagogical approaches, its link between conceptual knowledge and experiential learning; collaborating on video content, editing and voiceovers for R2R’s learning materials; and participating in a global youth-led panel on climate change to celebrate Earth Day .

My role as a programme coordinator empowers me to cultivate environmental consciousness, and support the young people I work with to increase their understanding of key issues; just like my high school geography teacher and the environmental education organisations that visited my school did for me. These life experiences not only opened my eyes and ignited a deep passion for environmentalism, but they also contributed to moulding the professional I am today.

Every day is a new adventure, I am learning to do the best that I can, I laugh and I follow my heart.

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