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Staff Mavunda: A young woman empowered through an innovative tourism internship programme

In 2015 Open Africa piloted a 12-month youth development programme which aimed to move young adults into the tourism work force. It was so successful that the programme was run again to form part of a Sustainable Enterprise Development Programme (STEP) which was run across eight provinces in South Africa.

Open Africa found that innovative approaches were required to enable rural youth to participate in the economy as many of the youth had limited or poor education and most of them a severe lack of confidence. As a result, the programme was adjusted so that it now focuses on soft skills like communication, critical and analytic thinking and problem-solving as well as the application of relevant technologies such as social media. Hailing from the bustling Limpopo town of Giyani, 27-year-old Staff Mavunda has been involved in the Sustainable Tourism Enterprise Programme since October 2015. 

After completing a course in tourism, Staff was lacking in self-confidence and work experience, but knew that she would like to one day own a guest house. She tapped into her inner entrepreneur and decided to start a business selling muffins at the local high school during the 30-minute lunch break each day. Word spread amongst the learners and soon she was earning around R6000 a month but without proper business training, she struggled to take it to the next level and her guest house dream still eluded her.

When the opportunity to be placed as an intern along the Rixile Culture to Kruger Route presented itself, Staff jumped at it and has loved every minute of it. She’s gained valuable hands-on knowledge of tourism-based businesses and, most importantly, she’s noticeably grown in confidence and feels comfortable speaking in public. The programme exposed her to various aspects of the industry and covered topics such as entrepreneurship, marketing and leadership. This, combined with the work experience gained at local tourism enterprises, allowed her to gain a better understanding of the industry and build up relevant, practical skills to apply in any tourism enterprise. 

Her passion for tourism and its potential benefits in her community will continue to drive her and we look forward to seeing her realise her dream. With the guidance of the workshop facilitator she identified the steps she would need to take, the first being that she would need to find a mentor and a work placement to gain the necessary experience. 

Through the programme Staff was matched with a local lodge manager and placed at Mashovhelo Lodge in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo.  She continued to excel and after three months was offered a permanent position at the lodge, where the owners are so confident in her ability that they have already handed over more responsibility to her and are preparing her for a managerial position. At this rate we don’t think it will be long before this enterprising young woman is running a lodge of her own.

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