Meet our Proteas of the Valley 2019 women
Three years ago, Valcare had a dream of honouring the women of the Paarl valley and surrounding areas, who work tirelessly to make our communities a better place.
Over the years this inspirational women’s month initiative, held in August each year, has grown in leaps and bounds and has become a highlight in the Cape Winelands calendar. The name ‘Proteas of the Valley’ was chosen last year, because just like this famous fynbos plant, these women also flourish and flower amidst harsh and difficult conditions.
This year, the nominations for the Proteas of the Valley 2019 women opened in June and the public had a month to submit their names and reasons to explain why they think their nominee should be part of the line-up. An election committee, consisting of a group of previous Proteas of the Valley ladies, then went through the difficult process of selecting the top 15 women.
“It’s wonderful to see that even though the chosen Proteas of the Valley ladies are completely different with unique backgrounds and stories, they also have a lot in common. They are all incredibly inspirational, courageous and they make a difference in other people’s lives,” says Jolanda van der Lingen, Relationship Manager at Valcare.
Our inspiring ladies for 2019:
Valcare’s Proteas of the Valley 2019 women are: From left to right, top: Lily Fortuin, Katie van Loggerenberg, Marliza Koen, Vanessa Adams, Xoliswa Mjezu, Nontuthuzelo Ginya, Anthea Irene Williams, Christalene Newing. Middle: Veronica Whatney, Veronica Gelant, Adriana Francke. Front: Johanessa Viljoen, Corné van Heerden, Lizzette Baxter, Charlene Elliott. [Photo taken by Joke Viljoen at Bon Louis Bistro]
Adriana Francke has been a teacher for almost 30 years and is passionate about education and the arts.
Despite her challenging leadership role as the Deputy Principal at Groenheuwel Primary, she is also the Chairperson of the nonprofit organisation, Soulou Productions in Paarl.
Nine years ago, she started a side-project called Global Spotlight Talent Search, to help aspiring artists from underprivileged communities develop their full potential. Adriana sacrifices so much for these artists: her home becomes the rehearsal venue, she drives them around, cooks meals and often pays the bills from her own pocket.
Amidst all of this, she also decided to adopt her nephew and raise him as her own, when her brother sadly passed away.
Anthea Williams has been a dedicated educator for the past 25 years, and is currently the Principal of Dorothea Special School in Stellenbosch. Here, she is part of a great team working toward integrating people with disability into the broader community.
Anthea has had to face tremendous challenges over the years whilst working at the school. Protecting the children and parents in uncertain times, trying to give a quality education to vulnerable children with little funds available.
But, without ever complaining or giving up, she goes beyond her duties by arranging additional activities for the school through clever partnerships and new ideas.
All of this whilst perfectly balancing her work and family life as a dedicated wife and mother of two young boys.
Charlene Elliot is a true hero today, but she had a heart-breaking start to life.
She got adopted as a toddler and her new mom abused her for nine years. After school she got married and had two kids, but her husband turned out to be an abusive alcoholic and she had to flee her home.
Starting out with nothing, she worked various jobs and ended up volunteering at Klapmuts Primary as a sports coach. This changed everything for her.
Today, Charlene manages the 4Simo Training Centre for farm kids, she volunteers at Sunfield Centre for Intellectually Disabled Adults participates in anti-bullying campaigns, and is a team leader of the Mothers’ Day Connect initiative.
She also implements a “I wish my teacher knew” programme in schools to help children speak out about injustices, and hosts free boot camp exercise classes for women in Klapmuts.
Christalene Newing has known rejection since birth. Her father was married to another woman when her mother fell pregnant with her, and to this day he has sadly distanced himself from her.
Throughout her life she has been exposed to harsh poverty, domestic abuse in relationships, and had to deal with her own child struggling with addiction.
Christalene has overcome so many challenges to be the change-maker that she is today. For years she was a hard-working Police Reservist in Paarl and Klapmuts, before she followed her dream of becoming the Chairperson of Hervormde Goud Stukkkies – an NGO that helps victims of abuse in Paarl.
Everyone calls her “sister” because she will do anything to help others, treating them like her own family.
Corné van Heerden grew up in a happy home but had to come to terms with two childhood challenges: sexual abuse and financial struggles. She was determined to overcome her past and get out of her comfort zone to help others.
Whilst working as a successful Logistics Manager at Oldenburg Wine Farm, she still felt a specific calling to serve through Cloetesville Shofar church after-hours.
Corné joined a group of women who were all facing tough personal circumstances. She has completely invested in their lives – emotionally and practically. Many hours are spent each week to cook meals, drive friends around and encourage them.
She is also co-parenting three boys in the community, and after encouraging one of them to start gymnastics, he has become a gold-medal-champion.
A month before Johanessa Viljoen was born, her dad sadly passed away. She lived with her grandparents until her mother remarried, but unfortunately, her stepdad was an alcoholic. Her childhood was mostly spent in hostels far from home, and as a little girl, she felt orphaned and helpless.
But at the age of 19 her life changed completely after an encounter with God, and miraculously, her family relationships were restored.
Although she is a qualified Somatologist, she couldn’t ignore the greater calling to the missionary field.
Today, she is the Founding Member of Salt and Light Children’s Discipleship in Paarl where they spread the gospel to more than 5000 kids per week. She is also a Pastor at Every Nation Church, a Tall Trees parenting facilitator, a Leaders in Training facilitator, an active foster parent, and a mother to three teenagers.
Katie Van Loggerenberg suffered trauma as a child, because of her mother’s abusive marriage and horrible divorce. She had too much responsibility for her age and couldn’t finish her university studies.
Whilst working at the World Mission School, she moved to the Ukraine with her husband where she played a significant role in establishing 300 small mission schools in a Russian-speaking world.
After dealing with the sad news of infertility, they adopted two children and is currently also lovingly fostering three more children through Kin Culture.
During the week she does admin work for Amazing Brainz learning programmes and facilitates Play and Learn activities in rural communities. She also collects and distributes food for foster families within the Kin Culture network, and supports her husband to grow his small business.
Lily Fortuin started helping others at the age of 14 when she volunteered to help feed babies at a charity. Today, 60 years later, with three children, four grandchildren and a great grandchild, Lily is still an active change-maker.
Although she had to care for her blind husband for many years before he passed away, she continuously found ways to uplift and serve those around her.
She supports isolated communities living on farms with food and clothes, she councils couples, mentors women, guides troubled youth, hosts breakfast events for more than hundred seniors at a time, and is busy setting up her own soup kitchen. One of the young boys that she mentored, changed his life around and is busy finishing his Engineering Degree.
At 74 years of age, she also acts as an inspirational motivational speaker that aims at encouraging others to make the most of their lives.
Lizzette Baxter’s early life and marriage wasn’t easy, but it equipped her to be the incredible person that she is today.
She is one of those people that is a social worker not only in name and profession, but in heart and soul.
Lizette is currently working at Athlone House of Strength (AHOS) where she provides therapeutic counselling to abused women and their children, supports the families of the abused, provides aftercare for the clients who leave the shelter and provides counselling to the perpetrator. She is also an Executive Member of the Women Shelter Movement’s Social Workers’ Forum.
A constant motivator, a friend, a mother, grandmother, and the voice to many in the community. She goes beyond her call of duty to ensure that the most vulnerable find a place of safety.
Marliza Koen never experienced a carefree childhood. She was abused as a girl, and felt so ashamed about it, that it caused a low self-esteem, never allowing her to reach her full potential.
One day, during her adult years, she had a wonderful revelation where she realised her worth and identity in Christ. As a qualified teacher, she started searching for her true calling in life and began volunteering at Khula Development Group. She served the organisation as a passionate facilitator for ten years, making a lasting difference in many children’s lives.
Today she is one of the tutors at Elohim Centre in Paarl, and tutors learners after-hours too.
Marliza is a creative soul that also presents adult art classes, loves flowers and writing, using all her talents as a gift to others.
Nontuthuzelo Ginya was raised by her grandmother in rural Eastern Cape. Her dreams of becoming a social worker was shattered due to a lack of finances, and she reluctantly agreed to study Early Childhood Development. Little did she know that this was pre-destined for her.
In 1992 she co-opened Sinethemba Preschool in Mbekweni, starting with 42 kids. Today, her preschool is one of the biggest in Paarl with almost 300 children in their care and a passionate and well-trained team.
Nontuthuzelo is also a respected business woman, owning a fleet of taxis in a male-dominated industry. She is a member of G25 Investors and Ezovangelo who progressively aim to develop Mbekweni holistically.
She is mother to three children and grandmother to four, and is an active member of the Methodist Church.
Vanessa Adamswas raised in Paarl East, surrounded by poverty and gangsterism. For her, hearing gunshots on the way to school was normal.
But in her heart, she always knew that she was born to make a difference in her community. After school she joined the South African Police Service in Paarl where she has been a Forensic Officer for the past 14 years.
Through her work, she was exposed to the severe need of vulnerable youth. Vanessa then started helping one child from her own pocket, and then another, until she opened her own NGO.
Today, she and her team manages Fountain of Hope, an organisation offering a variety of upliftment initiatives like sport programmes, an internet café, aftercare and a soup kitchen. She does this all after-hours, coming back from long, tiring shifts and then giving more of herself.
Veronica Gelant started her career as a security worker at Val de Vie estate, but decided to study further to become a qualified nurse. Returning to Val de Vie she worked herself up the ranks to become the Operations Manager at Cape Winelands Construction Services, where she has been recognised with an Excellent Achievement award.
After working long hours, Veronica turns to her passion as volunteer in her community by partnering with the Val de Vie Foundation.
She uses her medical training to help victims of accidents and stabbings to literally save their lives. Veronica also volunteers at soup kitchens and assists neglected children, all whist being an incredible mom to five children.
Veronica Whatney had to walk bare-feet to school in her rural village, no matter what the season. Her parents had to work very hard for her education and in order for her to become a teacher, she had to diligently work part-time to pay for her studies.
Today, she is the proud Principal of Ronwe Primary, a school set in a similar area to that of her own upbringing. Her disadvantaged background helping her to understand the difficult situations of the children and parents that she is serving.
Aside from managing the school with zeal, she initiates free services, learning opportunities, skills development for the parents; and is also a fulltime teacher juggling her time between the office and her classroom.
Xoliswa Mjezu’s husband passed away after only two years of marriage, and she was left to take care of her autistic child alone.
She moved from the Eastern Cape to Mbekweni, and after looking for a special needs centre for her daughter in Mbekweni, she realised that it doesn’t exist.
She started volunteering at a stimulation centre in Paarl and was shocked to see their long waiting list. This moved her to action to study further and open the Good Hope Day Care Centre.
Xoliswa is currently the manager of the centre, taking care of 21 disabled children with the help of five caregivers in her mother’s very small house. She has also become a foster parent of one of the children.
Proteas of the Valley Main Sponsors:
- Mergon (official funders of the Valcare Membership Network)
- Alert Engine Parts (funders of the event and following movements)