We are delighted to host Yolanda Sigodi as our guest blogger. Yolanda was the Zoe Trust’s first grantee, over ten years ago. She is now finishing her university degree, completely self-funded with South African government and corporate grants.
My name is Yolanda Sigodi. I am 21 years old and currently enrolled on an honours degree in Biotechnology at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. I come from a very small family with just two children and I currently live with my sister, my cousin and my mother. My mother works as a griller at Bertha’s restaurant. My father passed away when I was a few weeks old – I have only ever seen him in photos.
Being raised by a single mother was tough as my mother had to take care of my sister and I, as well as her entire family. Therefore, I grew up in the Eastern Cape where I lived with my grandparents and cousins. At the end of 2003, my grandmother passed away, so my older sister, cousin and I moved to the Western Cape to stay with my mother.
During my primary school years, I became friends with a girl called Okuhle Beyaphi, whose aunt worked for Alison McCullum, a friend of Tanya Murphy of the Zoe Trust. At the end of grade seven, I got to meet Alison who told me about the Zoe Trust and the aim of the trust – to help support the education of young children around the world.
In 2009, I became a Zoe Trust recipient. There is only one high school in my community and it teaches mainly in Isixhosa. Zoe Trust sponsorship granted me the opportunity to attend a different school outside of my community that enabled me to learn and speak in English and Afrikaans. Tanya Murphy was my sponsor throughout my high school years; she took care of my fees, transport, books, stationary and school uniform. I was also able to attend extra classes for maths and English which were organised by Alison, my mentor throughout my high school years. With the support from the Zoe Trust, Alison, my family and a youth programme, which offered free tutoring and mentoring, I passed my matric with requirements for admission to a bachelor’s degree.
During my last high school years, I always knew that I wanted to study further and pursue all my dreams, regardless of the financial situation at home. I had heard about bursaries and financial aid schemes that were offered to university students such as the Masiphumelele corporation and took the initiative to apply for a bursary. I was luckily one of the selected students; I also applied for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and I was also accepted for their funding.
In 2014, I enrolled at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) to study Biotechnology. A Masicorp grant assisted me with things that the financial aid scheme did not cover such as private accommodation and a subsistence allowance for groceries, which my mother could not afford. University students go through so many struggles and suffering but the worst has to be the worry about what you are going to eat especially when you know that there is nothing they can do to assist you back at home. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help from the above mentioned grants and the Zoe Trust.
I would describe myself as a very dedicated student, a natural hard worker and multitasker. I am a vibrant and self-motivated person who believes in going the extra mile to achieve success. I am always keen to take on new challenges with high energy and drive. For example in 2015, I was residing at one of the University residencies where I took part in the house committee elections and was voted into office as the General Secretary of the house. I was determined to serve my fellow students, assisting them and taking their grievances to management.
Based on my first year results, I was awarded with the UWC bursary award, this gave me courage to continue working harder. I took part in the UWC house committee elections and I was elected into office as the Deputy Chairperson of the house. I have also worked as a tutor, student assistant and as a laboratory assistant/demonstrator. At the end of 2016, I joined a mentoring programme where I was assigned three mentees, two of them were first year students and one was a grade twelve learner. I did this because I wanted to give back to society, I wanted to reach out and help where I could.
One of my biggest achievements was being identified by the University as a member of Golden Key, a society that provides international recognition for academic achievement. This honour was based on my third year results, where I obtained four distinctions.
In the next 10 years, I see myself in medicine and I wish to own a pharmaceutical company. I am currently doing my honours project which focuses on Pharmacogenomics and the development of individualised drug therapy for type two Diabetes and Hypertension. I am enjoying the project and I love interacting with patients.
I am proud of the woman I am today and I would like to thank my family, Alison, Tanya and the Zoe Trust for the roles they have played in my life, for all the love and support. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.