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A natural calling to the wild

‘Growing up in the Eastern Cape I felt extreme chemistry with nature, especially when out cattle herding or looking for traditional healing herbs in the forests of Keiskammahoek with my late grandfather. I knew I wanted to spend my life in nature,’ writes former WWF Groen Sebenza intern Yanga Manyakanyaka.

WWF South Africa's Environmental Leaders internship programme helps graduates bridge the gap between academia and the world of work.

A journey of a thousand miles

A wise man once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. I’ve always had an image of this journey being a straight road with no potholes, inclines or stormy weather. But when I took my first steps, I soon encountered otherwise
 
A lack of career guidance meant I didn’t know what I wanted to do after matric. I enrolled for a marketing degree – only to later drop out. I then landed a job as a credit controller for a reputable financial services company – which paid really well – but something in me kept saying this was not my journey.
 
In 2012 I resigned from my job. I’d recently discovered the term ‘green economy’ and it made so much sense to me, as it took me back to my childhood, rolling down those hills of great green grasses. Residing in the big city of Cape Town in 2012, my first mission was to reduce waste by starting a recycling business. Alas, within six months of starting the business I was broke.
 
It was then that I was lucky enough to see an advert for the Groen Sebenza programme. It was looking for 800 young South Africans to be trained on the job, preparing them for the green economy. But the odds were against me. They wanted people who had either studied related subjects or taken related courses. I didn’t have either. But I decided to apply anyway.
 
I had submitted over 20 applications online around this time, but I thought I should hand deliver the WWF Groen Sebenza application.
 
Of the 1 000 applications that WWF received, I was chosen for one of 25 placements.
 
For two and a half years of this internship, I was placed in a beautiful part of the Western Cape called Nature’s Valley. I worked as an environmental educator and a community outreach intern for Nature’s Valley Trust. I was completely out of my comfort zone. But the mentorship that Dr Mark Brown and WWF provided not only made me more aware of potholes, and avoiding them, it taught me how to pick up a shovel and fill them with sand to pave a way for those who will walk the journey behind me. It has helped me to navigate detours, inclines and stormy weather, and prepared me to keep walking towards my dreams.

Yanga Manyakanyaka Photo
Yanga Manyakanyaka, Former WWF Groen Sebenza intern

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