The development and training of local community members as project managers, senior management and Board members is a cornerstone of our work.
When we first started our work in 2007, there were scarce skills available for many of our projects, particularly in health, education, finance and admin management. As a strategic focus, we prioritised training people from our community, even if we needed to outsource jobs temporarily while developing skills in-house.
This approach has allowed our community to enhance its skillset each year, gradually acquiring the necessary skills to create lasting change that our community can maintain for years to come. Given that 95% of people from our community had not completed high school before the establishment of BI, this capacity-building has been transformative.
Nearly 90% of BI staff are from our local community, and now, 83% of our senior management team was born in or are permanent bona fide members of the community.
Khunjulwa “Khunji” Mbi, BI Administrative Assistant Manager, was born and raised in Nqileni Village, where our main office is located. She completed her primary school in the community, but since there was no high school then, she had to leave home to study in town.
She finished grade 11 but did not pass her Matric. So she decided to come back home. In 2010, she started a village tour business and retail shop at Bulungula Lodge, where she worked for two years. She then relocated to Zithulele (a community one hour’s drive away), where she did translation and outreach work at the local hospital.
In 2014, when a Nomakhaya (Community Health Worker) position opened at BI, she applied and was offered the job. She loved working with people in her community, and after three years as a Nomakhaya, she was promoted to Health Programme assistant manager. Shortly after, she was promoted again to admin assistant manager.
If anyone wants to know what the backbone of the BI is, it’s Khunji. She is our “everything” person, with the special skill to juggle ten things at once with a calm smile.
This year, we are excited to expand our Job Skills and Entrepreneurship Programme accredited courses to our staff. Khunji is one of ten BI staff members who are currently studying online through Tsiba Ignition Academy. She is enrolled in a generic management course to earn a NQF level 5 National Certificate.
This self-paced, eighteen-month course will cover skills programmes in team development; conflict and change management; human resource management; financial management; and planning, monitoring and evaluation.
By enrolling in the management course, our staff members are taking an important step towards enhancing their professional skills and knowledge. As the programme focuses on diverse skill sets, our staff will be better equipped to handle a range of challenges that may arise in their respective roles.
Growing our own timber takes considerably more time, but we know that it is key to developing resilience, self-reliance and long-term sustainability for our projects.