From spondyloarthritis and a disabling car accident to Impact Sourcing Champions
Ayanda Ntshingila’s spunk, positivity and all-round optimism is highly infectious. The 27-year-old mother of two is outgoing, jovial, loves working with people and is determined to make a positive impact on the world. Something she is bound to do in her learner management role at the Impact Sourcing Institute of South where she works with disabled and disadvantaged young South Africans.
Ayanda is also living with Spondyloarthritis, an umbrella term for a chronic inflammatory and auto-immune disease that affects the spine, pelvis, neck, larger joints often in the arms and legs, and even internal organs, like the intestines and eyes. For Ayanda, the arthritis has attacked her lumbar spine and besides the debilitating effects on her condition, she also lives with chronic pain as a constant companion.
Her condition was finally diagnosed when she was in high school and living with her grandmother in Kwazulu-Natal. It had a marked impact on her academic performance at school as she struggled to manage her studies and exams in between regular hospital stays and physiotherapy sessions. In 2012, Ayanda’s grandmother encouraged her to move back to her family in Johannesburg where she could access better healthcare and physiotherapy care for her condition, something that was not readily available to her in KZN. Financially, it was incredibly tough for Ayanda and her family, with her father being the only breadwinner.
It was in Johannesburg during 2019, at the age of 25, that Ayanda would take up a learnership opportunity with the SA Business School, a training provider within the AlefBet Holdings Group. It was her very first exposure to the world of work. Fast forward to 2020 and the completion of her 12-month learnership, and Ayanda’s potential, work ethic and very obvious people skills saw her offered a permanent position in a management role within the Impact Sourcing Institute.
“I often tell our disabled learners that I am ‘impact sourcing’ in action – my progress and the opportunity I have are exactly why impact sourcing is such an invaluable tool towards changing lives in a very tangible and meaningful way. I often think that my role today is all about helping the Ayanda of five years ago that faced incredible hardship and uncertainty. My lived experience of what it is like to be both disadvantaged and a disabled woman really helps me to understand and empathise with every learner and the many challenges they face. It’s a role I am passionate about. I love being the conduit between helping our disabled learners find their purpose, breaking down their psychological barriers after living with years of societal exclusion, and helping them find their way to playing a meaningful and fulfilling role in society. It’s also about showing society and corporate employers just how much unrealised potential there is in South Africa’s disabled communities. Being part of an organisation that’s all about giving back disabled people the gift of self-determination and self-worth is priceless,” says Ayanda.
Selby Jele’s life changed dramatically at age 13 when he was involved in a serious car accident that left him with permanent back injuries. While he is still reasonably mobile today, his back injuries mean that he is very limited in the type of work that he can do - anything requiring periods of standing or physical exertion are simply not possible, and he is grateful for his office-bound role at the Impact Sourcing Institute. Selby recalls the days as a teenager when his mom secured part time work for him at the retail store where she was employed.
“In retail, the job is pretty much 95% on your feet, and it was murderous standing for such extended periods of time with my back injuries. It was very clear that my back injury would dictate the kind of work and role that I could undertake as a young adult. Being from a disadvantaged and poor background and living with a disability meant that opportunities were few and far between in a country where more than 50% of youth are unemployed,” explains Selby.
But a chance opportunity to complete a learnership in IT and systems support for contact centres would be the precursor to Selby securing a permanent position in the IT department of Shapiro Shaik Defries and Associates (SSDA), a first party collections business within the AlefBet Holdings Group. His immediate supervisor was quick to recognise Selby’s potential and encouraged him to apply for a role with SA Business School, a training provider within the Alefbet group. From there, Selby was promoted again and joined the Impact Sourcing Institute where he now works as an administrator.
“It makes the world of difference to be in a workplace where you are understood and embraced. At the same time, while we have an employer that understands the challenges of living with a disability and coming from a disadvantaged background, we are also pushed and encouraged to fully embrace our potential. We are not limited by our disabilities here – while our bodies may be disabled in some way, our minds are not. I am working in a call centre environment where the roles and opportunities are many and diverse, and there is real opportunity for career progression from junior to senior management roles. My background does not define my future and my disability is not a full stop,” adds Selby.