Story of Hope: From Jobless and Desperate to Inspired Sommelier

Christiaan’s Story.

Christiaan was only six years old when he witnessed his father being shot and killed right in front of his eyes. He was severely traumatised by the incident and became an angry and rebellious boy.

When Christiaan’s mother decided to get married again, he was furious, and refused to accept this new relationship. But as time went on, he saw that his mother was happy and he grew fonder of his stepdad.

His biological father was a hard man and used to physically abuse his mom. He often had to protect her and plead with his father not to kill her.

A role model to look up to

Christiaan’s stepdad was a caring husband and a hard worker. He even began further studies at age 50, to improve himself and the lives of his family resulting in recognition and promotion at work. Christiaan admired his character and wanted to become like him.

Then tragedy struck again – his stepdad was diagnosed with cancer. As the illness took its toll, he wasn’t able to continue work and provide for his family. Christiaan had to quit his job to take care of his stepdad fulltime until he eventually lost his battle with cancer and passed away.

Christiaan walked holes into his shoes whilst looking for work.

Walk a mile in his shoes…

Christiaan was left alone, hurt, angry and jobless. He was frustrated just sitting at home and hanging out with his friends, so he decided to go out and look for a job and not give up until he found work.

Day after day he would put on his only pair of shoes and start walking from place to place, desperate to find employment. He was so determined to find work that after hundreds of hours of searching and many kilometres of walking he wore through the soles of his shoes.

The R50 that changed it all

As Christiaan was about to give up, a friend told him that he could send out his CV from the community centre. He quickly scribbled his CV on a piece of paper and with only R50 in his pocket, proceeded to the centre.

You can say it was by sheer chance, but today Christiaan sees it as divine intervention. On his way to the centre he came across First Step Academy. The course coordinator started a conversation with him and invited him to sign up for their program that only costs R50. Christiaan didn’t know what to expect but had a gut feeling that this was the right thing to do.

Taking the first step

Christiaan working as a sommelier in Paarl.

During the First Step programme Christiaan turned out to be both an intelligent man and an inspiring leader. He finished the course, gained work-place experience and found full time employment.

Today, Christiaan is full of life and can’t stop talking about the goodness and grace of God and the kindness of others. He loves his new job as a sommelier in Paarl. He uses every opportunity to mentor and motivate the youth as an ambassador of the First Step Academy.

He often uses his worn out shoes as an example of never giving up and persevering might feel like an endless journey but sometimes it is that first step that will take you towards a better future.

“I am forever thankful for what I have learned at First Step. It was more than just job-readiness. They helped me find my way back to my true identity and purpose, worn shoes and all.”

About First Step

First Step is a community work-readiness academy in the heart of Paarl. They believe in the holistic development and enhancement of individuals.

“Our aim is to not only to prepare and support gifted individuals like Christiaan to follow a career of their choice, but also empower them with biblical truths of love, security and discipline to give them a hope for a better future”, says Pieter Viljoen, founder of First Step Academy.

The First Step Academy focuses on young people from the Drakenstein area who have successfully passed their matric exams but who are unemployed. The programme offers them 2 months of skills training and 6 months of placement in a local company with the prospect of permanent employment.

The programme has three phases: the initial selection and contracting process; the readiness and bridge-building process; and the work-place experience and mentoring phase.

Christiaan with his fellow-students at First Step Academy.

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