Proteas of the Valley 2022
Every year during National Women’s Month Valcare celebrates and honours the women who make the Cape Winelands’ communities a better place.
Through an independent nomination and selection process, 15 women are selected as part of our Proteas of the Valley women’s empowerment initiative. This initiative is now in its tenth year and is again showcasing remarkable women, from Franschhoek to Paarl, Stellenbosch and Wellington.
A Protea of the Valley is a woman who flourishes and flowers despite difficult conditions. The women will feature on our social media platforms and in the media. Throughout the month they will share their stories and talk about their work and organisation.
Here are the women selected as this year’s Proteas of the Valley:
Divene Pietersen is a community worker at Khula Development Group and has a heart for helping women and children.
She’s been with Khula for nine years and works with families to ensure no child drops out of school. She says the only thing you need to help someone is to give them hope.
“To help families gives me purpose. We don’t want to see children loitering on the streets and drop out of the schooling system. We want a healthy society; this starts with guiding parents to ensure children stay in school. Sometimes all someone needs is a kind word. It gives me such joy when people choose a better life for themselves. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, be hopeful. There is a better life for you.”
Divene, who lives in Lantana—a neighbourhood known for gangsterism and poverty—says she wants to be a positive example to the women in her community.
“I want to be an example of how to carry yourself. Christ’s light should shine through me. Whatever good I do is not about me; I’m just an instrument of the Lord.”
While she is a confident woman, Divene once struggled to find her identity.
“I used to be a shy and withdrawn person. But, my work in helping others made me realise who I am as a person. When the Lord blesses me, I am responsible for sharing my blessings with others. When I give someone a kind word or inspire hope for them to persevere through hard times, I am doing the Lord’s work.”
Her message to women is always to be hopeful.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from; Lantana, Chicago, or whichever area, don’t let your circumstances determine the course of your life. Choose who you want to be, and work towards it. Be hopeful that your life will be good.”
Joulanda Mocke says helping others has always been a part of who she is. She believes she was placed on Earth to be Jesus’ hands and feet and to serve others.
Joulanda is a shepherd, facilitator, trainer, and tax compliance officer at Salt and Light Kids. She is also a financial manager at Gordian Fence SA (Pty) Ltd.
Through Salt and Light Kids, Joulanda has the opportunity to teach the gospel of Christ to the young boys of Paarl Boys’ Primary.
“Knowing that I’m making a difference in the boys’ lives is a joy I cannot describe. Teaching them the Word of God is an honour.”
Joulanda says as she was growing up, she faced identity and self-worth issues, but it was when she accepted herself that she could help and serve others.
“Believe in yourself and realise your worth; through that, you can make a change in other people’s lives.”
Her advice for anyone going through a difficult time is to believe in God.
“Believe in God and surround yourself with people who can help you. And, allow people to help because then you give them the opportunity to be a blessing in your life.”
She wants women to recognise their worth.
“Believe in yourself. Realise your worth. When you do this, you can make a difference in the lives of others.”
Karen Petersen firmly believes it is her calling and passion as the Marketing and Funding Manager at House Andrew Murray (HAM) Child and Youth Care Centre in Wellington to ensure that 155 orphaned and vulnerable children have a safe place to call home and a future to look forward to.
She had a steady spiritual foundation, but it strengthened when she shifted from working 16 years in a corporate environment as an International Brand Manager to the Non-profit sector.
Karen confidently assured us: “When I made my career change, it was to impact the community and invest in other people. I am passionate about giving children a future, a life to look forward to.”
Her work at House Andrew Murray is not only to ensure the children have a roof over their head, food on the table, clothes to wear, therapy and education, but to carve a future for them and to grow deeper connections of support.
She confirmed the service and support of HAM by stating: “We ensure that all our children can further their studies. And even after we send them into the world, we will always be there for them as guardians.”
One of the ways HAM’s team and Karen help the children further their studies is through HAM’s bursary and mentorship programme. The children are supported with a Career Direct Programme, how God designs you, in Grade 9 which follows with a mentorship and bursary programme for the Grade 12 learners. Learners are furthermore assisted with enrollment in a higher Education programme at a Tertiary Institution to pursue their career paths.
Karen says: “Being a Protea of the Valley means being an Ambassador for the Drakenstein and Cape Winelands regions and HAM, which is a positive achievement in my growth.’
Karen believes that it is her duty to make a change in the community. As a society, we actually shouldn’t have children’s homes because that shows something went wrong in the family household. We need to educate parents before they have children. South Africa has one of the highest rates of fatherless children in the world, of which 61.8% of children under the age of 18 live without their father. We need to educate men to be fathers. At HAM, we have a “Wingerdstok Spiritual Programme” where men are volunteers to be mentors for our boys and girls.
Her advice to women is to keep the faith.
“Keep praying. I’m a big advocate for faith and belief. You have to believe you are capable. And when you trust God, anything is achievable and possible; nothing can go wrong.” So love God, love yourself and others.
Mercia Moses has a heart for helping young people. She is a shepherd at Salt and Light Kids, where she teaches the gospel of Christ to young children. And she is also a coordinator at education consultancy Change within Development and a pastor at Ephphatha Ministry.
Mercia had a traumatic upbringing, but she rose above it and now helps others who experience the same difficulties she once did.
Born and raised in Paarl East, one of her earliest memories was of her mother moving her and her siblings around because they did not have a place to call home. They eventually got accommodation at Magnolia Flats in Paarl, and her father came to live with them. But, her father lost his job and started selling drugs from their home—this opened their world up to danger.
“Our lives took a turn for the worst. I never felt safe in my own home, and gangsterism and drugs became part of my life. There were always strangers moving through the house, and I did not feel safe,” Mercia said.
When Mercia was 17, someone walked into their home and murdered her father. The cycle of drug dealing in her family continued with her brothers when they also joined gangs and started doing drugs. But, despite her family’s difficulties, Mercia said her mother taught her how to love people. “I would watch her give food to the hungry and homeless, and instead of being scared, I started taking care of my brothers and the young boys recruited to gangs.”
Today, Mercia still invites young people into her home to serve them food.
“The hardships I went through have moulded me into the person I am today. I relate better to people and understand that some people are on the streets because of unavoidable circumstances. I was able to build a better life for myself, but not everyone is as blessed. I will continue to treat everyone with respect and love.”
Her advice to women this Women’s Month is to speak up.
“Whatever you are going through, speak up. You would be surprised at how many people can assist you. You are a jewel, and you deserve happiness.”
After many years of struggling to reach her dream, Gladys Senyani is now working as a social auxiliary worker at the Thuthuzela Care Centre in Paarl. There, she works with persons affected by sexual and domestic abuse.
“At the Thuthuzela Care Centre, we are helping the clients transform from victims to survivors. We are also educating communities on gender-based violence and urge women not to stay quiet if they are in danger.”
Gladys grew up in a humble two-room mud house in rural Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape. While life for her family was tough growing up, Gladys made sure she’d carve out a better future for herself.
“My parents tried their best to provide for us, but it was tough. I remember there were nights when we would go to bed hungry because there was no food in the garden and no work for my dad. But, this motivated me to go to school to have a better life.”
While she excelled in school, Gladys fell pregnant at 17 and had to wait three years after the birth of her daughter before she could complete her education. Still, she was determined to become a social worker.
She decided to move to Cape Town to further her education after matric but needed the funds to do so. She found employment as a domestic worker and saved enough funds to study a course in social auxiliary work.
After years of struggling to find work in this field, Gladys finally got appointed by the Thuthuzela Care Centre in 2020.
“I told myself, after school, I’ll study social work because I like helping people. Even though I didn’t have much, I wanted to give back to others. I love my job because I get to help others. I’m happy to positively impact the lives of those who cross my path.”
Gladys’s advice to women is to speak up and be heard.
“It doesn’t matter if people discuss your personal problems in the streets; what matters is that you don’t keep your problems bottled up. Reach out for help when things start weighing you down.”
She-Earl was born and raised in Paarl East, and her mother’s death when she was in Grade 9 changed her childhood from a stable one to one filled with turmoil.
When her mother died, her father started drinking, was never home, and his already strained relationship with her stepbrother became more unstable.
“My father and stepbrother always had a difficult relationship, but when my mother died, everything just fell apart. There was always conflict between them, and one day it escalated to a point where my stepbrother stabbed my father,” she said.
She-Earl’s father ended up in the hospital and was in critical condition. This event was once again a difficult time for She-Earl. She was facing the possibility of losing her father, and her stepbrother had gone to stay with other family members, leaving her to fend for herself.
Her mother’s passing was a huge blow to her, and the experience changed her forever.
“We did not know that my mother had any health problems. She just woke up one day, and as she was preparing for work, she collapsed from a stroke and died. It was sudden, and I was left feeling very lost,” she said.
Even though she was feeling lost and had little to no supervision, She-earl promised herself that she would finish school and build a better life for herself. After finishing high school, one of her former teachers suggested she apply for a social auxiliary worker learnership.
“I went through difficult times in my life, and those experiences have made it easier for me to relate to the children and women I come in contact with in my line of work. I understand what they are going through because I have been there myself,” she added.
She-Earl currently works as a social auxiliary worker at the Thuthuzela Care Centre in Paarl, and she says her job means so much to her.
“I once was in a place where I felt lost and alone, and I do not want anyone to ever feel like that. Being able to wake up every day, go to work and be there for someone when they need me the most—is the best feeling ever, and I am grateful for that.”
She-Earl’s advice to women for Women’s Month is that they are precious, worthy, and valued.
“No matter what you’re going through, know that you have a purpose, and the light will shine through if you keep going.”
Deputy principal and Economics teacher at Klein Nederburg Secondary School, Janice Hardine, is a people enabler. She wants to see people do well in life. She says the ultimate achievement for her is seeing her students excel.
“I know I’ve succeeded in my job when I see my students rise to great heights in their lives and careers—especially those who struggled in high school or disadvantaged students.”
Janice still resides in the same home and community where she was raised. Her mother, who is her role model, imparted the importance of hard work and community-heartedness to her.
“We were born to share, care and protect others. With the little we had, we always gave our best to others. The oppression seen and felt in our community and unseen talents and potential gave me the extra push to continue what my mother instilled in us as children.”
She says if someone needs help, and she’s able to assist, she will.
“I don’t hesitate to help others when they need it. Being a haven for learners with difficult living situations and providing emotional and psychological guidance is just one way I can help our community.”
Janice says it is crucial to focus on self-empowerment and growth, including adapting to the times.
“I learn from others because they have learned from others. I gladly share knowledge because I know what it took to empower myself to reach various heights throughout my career. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt is that we must be adaptable to diversity and identity. The world has changed, and if I want to connect with my learners, I need to understand them.”
To other women, her message is simple: embrace your womanhood.
“Being a woman doesn’t necessarily mean you are soft. You can be firm and stay true to yourself; be genuine and authentic. Be an example for others to live by, and the rest will follow.”
Alison Wilson is the Programme Manager at hearX Foundation, a nonprofit organisation that provides hearing and vision screenings for community members who need it.
Alison was born in Cape Town and raised between Cape Town and Gqeberha in the 1980s. According to Alison, the difference between life in Cape Town and farm life in the Eastern Cape opened her eyes to stark differences in class in South Africa.
“Growing up, I came across many people who were powerless to change their circumstances, which caused me to develop compassion for the marginalised. I had this social awareness, but I did not know how to make a change.”
Whether her family was in Cape Town or Gqeberha, Alison’s parents worked long hours, and she and her younger sister stayed in the care of farm workers, nannies or alone.
The school she attended was next to Langa, a township in Cape Town. That is where she spent most of her time after school, and that is also where she started doing what she could to impact change.
“I remember climbing through a fence and crossing a railway line to get into Langa to help school children with their homework as a teenager. I got involved in the community and witnessed bomb scares, people being stoned on the train and other horrible things that came with being in South Africa in the 80s.”
Still struggling to find her purpose, Alison moved overseas and travelled on outreach to Malawi and India after matric. When she fell pregnant with her first child, she decided to move back home and settle into a more stable life.
When her daughter was three years old, she met her husband and moved to Paarl. She continued volunteering wherever possible and helped her husband with admin in his business. During the global recession of 2018, they lost everything.
“It was a tough time for my family. We lost everything, but it also made us realise what is important. It changed the way we raise our kids, how we approach our finances and how we see people. I have enormous compassion for people who have problems and a lot of grace for people who think they have problems. It is all about perspective,” Alison said.
In 2022, she started as Programme Manager at hearX Foundation, and she believes that everything she has done and experienced has prepared her for the work she does today.
“I’m not affiliated with anything, but things always come across my path, and I never let them go until there is some shift or change. I am passionate about making people feel good about themselves. The goal is to leave the unloved and rejected feeling valued.”
Her advice to women is: you do not have to do it alone.
“I think being honest about where we are and what’s going on in our lives automatically gives the people around us permission to also be real. So, be real, but not be in competition with each other. Even if we don’t agree, have the same beliefs, or look the same, I can still show you love, and I can still be kind and generous towards you no matter what.”
Loren Erasmus has a beautiful voice and an even more beautiful heart.
She is a recording artist and the Business Development Officer at Outside the Bowl Africa in Wellington.
Loren was born and raised in Paarl. Her mum was a bookkeeper, and her dad was a sales clerk. They worked hard, but their jobs afforded Loren and her siblings few opportunities in life.
“My parents were hard workers, and as a result, we did not see much of them. My siblings and I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, and that, at a very young age, taught me independence and the value of hard work,” Loren said.
While she was still in primary school, her mom started getting sick. Because her dad was at work a lot, caring for her mother and her younger siblings mainly fell on her shoulders.
Despite everything going on, Loren continued to sing and use her music to bring joy to people in her community. As much as she loved music, she understood the realities of the industry and knew she had to pursue something beyond music after high school.
“I have always wanted to be in a position to help people, but I struggled to find that in my corporate career. When I became involved in the donation side of social investment, I started to feel like I was making a difference. However, I still felt like there is more that I can do.”
When she started working at Outside the Bowl, Loren finally felt like she had achieved something remarkable.
“This job has given me the freedom to make a difference in a way that matters, interact with people from different walks of life and live out my passion for helping people. Bringing a smile to someone’s face is the most rewarding thing any person can do,” she said.
With the support of her husband, Loren also started putting more effort into her music. She recently released a song, which is currently playing on national radio stations.
“I started singing when I was four years old, and I have always loved to entertain appreciative crowds. Still, my husband, being my biggest fan, is the one that finally motivated me to put more effort into my music. I am excited for the future in all aspects of my life”.
Loren’s advice to women is to stay the course.
“Always stay grounded and keep your faith alive. Giving up can never be an option.”
Making others smile is Yolandé Ontong’s goal in life. While she had a difficult upbringing, she didn’t let it get her down. And today, she wants to inspire others to keep positive and rise above their circumstances.
Yolandé is a facilitator at Mosaic Community Development, working with orphaned and vulnerable children. Being a good role model and a safe place for the 86 children she works with is vital for her.
“Every child longs for a person they can trust and depend on, and with whom they can share their feelings without judgement.”
She says her upbringing motivates her to help others in her community.
“I grew up without a dad. My mother and grandmother raised me, and it wasn’t always easy. Now, I want to help children going through the same struggles I did. I want them to focus on the good in life and to realise there is a possibility and opportunity for a better life.”
She grew up and still lives on Dundarach Poultry Farm outside Paarl. While she loves life on the farm, she wants to empower children living on the farm to dream big.
“Many children on the farm finish school but don’t get the opportunity to study further. Then they end up living the same lives as their parents and grandparents. I want to show them they can be more than farm workers if they want to. Life on the farm is hard, and I want them to end the cycle of trauma and poverty with themselves. They should know there is a whole other world beyond the farm. They can build a better life for themselves and their families too.”
Her message to other women is to live life to the fullest.
“Never take opportunities for granted. I believe our purpose is to make a change on earth and spread love.”
Ydalene Coetsee loves to see people succeed. As a lecturer at Stellenbosch University, she aims to help students excel despite any difficulties they may face.
She focuses on helping students develop their potential, especially first-generation students or students who need extra support.
“My focus is to help students who didn’t necessarily receive the proper assistance to perform during their schooling years. If students are struggling to keep up with the pace, I help them. Seeing struggling students succeed brings me joy.”
Ydalene served in the ministry for 38 years when her husband was a pastor at a congregation in Cloetesville, Stellenbosch. But after her husband fell ill, she decided to return to university so she could become the family’s breadwinner. Ydalene says that as she grew older, she realised she needed to use her privilege to create change in the lives of others.
“I am so privileged—I have a loving family, good health, and everything my heart desires. So, I often ask myself, what can I do to share my good fortune with others? Can I give a hungry child food? Can I help a student in need? So many people are struggling that we cannot turn a blind eye. If I want to see change, it has to start with me. I want to share my blessings and pay it forward.”
Her message to women is that they should value themselves and know they are worthy.
“Know you are good enough and unique. Tell other women in your life how special they are. When enough kind words are shared, we can change the world.”
Those who know her describe Thana Hancock as an unconventional trailblazer. Thana is an English teacher at Labori High School and the founder and CEO of the Western Cape Youth Council—an umbrella body for Junior Town Councils (JTCs) across the province.
The JTCs work with many social impact organisations to help affect change in the Cape Winelands community.
For Thana, life isn’t only about being busy but being purposeful. She says she wants her legacy to be “that she really tried hard”.
“We’re all on a journey. I want it to be written on my tombstone that I did try. I feel we waste so much time and don’t always apply our energy in useful ways. I’m not a philanthropist, I can only do my best to try to make a difference.”
Her driving force is action and seeing people land on their feet.
“I’m motivated by progression and seeing people reach their goals. It gives me great pleasure to see kids develop and use their potential. And, if you see something that needs to change, you have to take action; you can’t just walk away.”
This Women’s Month, she’s asking women to surrender.
“If you really are a strong woman, you won’t necessarily try to solve all your problems yourself. Jochebed had to put Moses in the basket on the river for both of them to survive. Sometimes women want to solve everything ourselves, but it takes a stronger woman to stop fighting. Hand your problems over to God; the Lord is fighting the battle for you. Put Moses in the basket.”
As a dreamer, Philda Adriaanse sees vivid pictures of how she can make a difference in the lives of others.
Twenty years ago, she had the calling to create a safe sanctuary for neglected children. Philda says she saw small boats anchored safely in a harbour, and today, she is working to make this safe place a reality for children in Paarl’s less fortunate communities.
“My calling is to help children. I started Soutkorrels Maak ’n Verskil with my sister Mercy who passed away in 2020, and our goal was to make a difference in the lives of children who don’t know what it is to feel valued. Sometimes, a child only needs to be shown love.”
“We serve the children of the Lover’s Lane settlement and flats in Paarl. These children struggle with many things, but we believe our support positively impacts their lives.”
Soutkorrels Maak ’n Verskil provides a space for children to do their schoolwork, get a meal, learn about Christ and experience His love. For Philda, seeing the children who come through Soutkorrels’ door succeed is the best feeling.
“Seeing a child move from difficult circumstances and build a better life for themselves is pure joy. My advice to the kids is to work hard—don’t fall into the same pitfalls as your parents. You can have a better life; rise above the hand you’ve been dealt.”
Philda believes her purpose is to give back to her community and others because she received help from others.
“If my foster parents didn’t help and raise me, I don’t know where I would be today. They gave me love and everything I needed, so is it not my turn to give back to others? To help children, you’re ultimately helping and bettering the community. So, I give back because others gave to me.”
This Women’s Month, she wants women to know there is hope.
“Rich or poor, all women face obstacles, but with the help of others, there is hope. If you need help, ask. And if you can help others, do.”
Jesika Jones has a passion for helping women and children from farming communities.
Jesika is an ECD facilitator at a farming community school and arts therapy facilitator with Sp(i)eel Arts Therapies Collective. She is also the founder of Valour Women for Restoration, which focuses on empowering and supporting women.
Growing up, Jesika and her family struggled with poverty, alcoholism and sometimes neglect because of the long hours her parents had to work. She says she learned to help others from a young age.
“The poverty and struggles I went through changed me. I had to ensure that my siblings and the other children on the farm ate and were dressed appropriately. I feel like I was meant to help others, and my circumstances instilled this need in me from a very young age.”
After completing high school, Jesika wanted to be a nurse. But, a lack of funding prevented her from realising her dream.
“I began working immediately after high school, married at a young age, had two kids and got divorced. It was only during my second marriage and after my fourth child that I was able to study further. I was already in my 40s.”
Jesika says her past hardships motivate her to improve the lives of others, especially those from farming communities.
“I know what it’s like growing up on the farm and dealing with poverty and alcoholism. I want to help others deal with their struggles. I want women to restore ourselves so we can raise a valour generation of men and women.”
She wants women to believe in themselves and their capabilities.
’’You can do whatever you set your mind to. You are never too old, and your past does not define your future.”
Roseline Daniels is the Cape Winelands district manager at the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport. She is also an international netball umpire.
Roseline is one of 11 children. As a result, her family sometimes struggled to get by. Apart from battling poverty, another challenge that rocked her foundation was her father’s death when she was a teenager.
“My father’s death hit me hard, and it took me many years to get over it. I became rebellious because my support system and the person that was the glue that kept my family together was gone,” she said.
The turning point for Roseline was a conversation with her school principal following the death of her father.
“I will never forget the conversation we had. It completely changed my life. He sat me down and told me that the only way I could get out of my situation was if I worked harder. He also offered me a place to study if home became too disruptive,” she said.
Sport has always been Roseline’s refuge. Now, her goal is to empower others through sport and help them unlock their potential.
“Playing sport was my vehicle out of the circumstances wherein I grew up. I have travelled the world and umpired at international events. Coaching and helping children through sport is me realising my dream,” she said.
Roseline proves that it is not where you come from that matters but what you do to change your narrative. Now, her past life of struggling is motivating her to help others.
“I will never forget the day someone showed me kindness and bought me shoes as a child since my parents couldn’t afford to provide that for me. That day I realised some people do care about others, and it inspired me to do the same.”
Her advice to women this Women’s Month is to embrace womanness.
“Woman, be a woman. You are allowed to feel your feelings; you don’t always have to be or act strong. Accept who you are and where you are at that moment. Love yourself.”