For 27-year-old Tintswalo “Melba” Dhlamini from Acornhoek, Mpumalanga, tourism has been an opportunity to learn and grow.
The manager at Nourish Eco Village, an NPO focussed on community upliftment, social responsibility and environmental education of rural villages and communities in Mpumalanga, Melba says her role gives her an opportunity to “grow and learn from people around me”.
“Nourish has given me the opportunity to learn so much more than office work. I’ve been able to learn about the tourism industry and how we can contribute to our communities. I have learned how to handle guests and to speak to international people, teaching them my language and culture. I also get to know their culture. Tourism opens the door to endless possibilities for me.”
Aside from its obvious job creation potential, tourism’s benefits are far-reaching, says Melba. “Tourism is very important to me and my family. I always try to teach my family and my child about tourism.”
With the arrival of COVID and subsequent lockdown, Melba sees the suffering and strain of unemployment that her people have been experiencing. “Without tourism, our country cannot benefit from job creation and the income we get from visitors coming to South Africa.”
South Africa, in Melba’s view, is one of the best destinations to visit and the destination should be reopened to international tourism sooner rather than later. “We would like international visitors to come to South Africa. We depend on these visitors for our salaries, so we can take care of our families. So many people have lost their jobs because they work in tourism. Without tourism, they have lost their food. Even if a small percentage of tourism returns, it’s better than nothing,” says Melba.
Every day, Melba makes sure that her community is looked after and highlights the importance of safety and health protocols. “We take food parcels out to the communities and make sure that these are being delivered to those in need”.
This includes creches as children are a key area of Nourish’s focus at this time. “Taking care of children and making sure they are well-nourished and taken care of is a big priority,” she explains.
But even with all of these challenges, Melba is leaning into the void and learning a new skill to help her community. “Currently, I am busy learning new skills to assist in fundraising and sponsorships, as well as the preservation of our children and their education. That is what I am busy with now and it is very exciting.”
Stand firm and be courageous
Melba shares some words of encouragement for our women and youth who have been affected by the pandemic and lockdown. “Stand firm and be courageous. Never lose hope. We will get through this. We have conquered the world before, we can still do it now.”
Melba believes in the power of women standing together. “We as women are the leaders, the innovators, the business owners. Together, believe me, we can still do so much more.”
Tintswalo smiles brightly and adds: “We are still the pillars of the world, so we have to fight this COVID together. We have to believe that there is still a tomorrow so that our kids can learn from us that when a situation like this comes we have to stand firm and together for the greater good. Stand up and fight so that tomorrow we can see the progress and build forward.”
Melba’s greatest hope is for everything to go back to normal and for those community members who have lost their job, are reemployed. “I would love for those people who have lost their jobs to get their jobs and to be able to support and care for their families like they did before, even if that takes a while to happen.”