My Journey from Unplanned Pregnancy to University Graduate, Author & Founder of Help One Helper

Ntombizodwa is a former domestic worker, university graduate and author of the book Brightness of Diamonds through Soil. She is also the founder and director of the non-profit organization Help One Helper, and above all, a mother to a 17-year-old daughter.

Ntombizodwa’s life today looks nothing like it did when she was 19 and faced with the responsibility of raising a child. We asked her to take us through that tough period of her life.

Tell us more about your unplanned pregnancy and what difficulties you faced as a young mom.

I was not financially, physically or mentally ready to have a child. It was difficult to adapt to the hard situation I put myself into. Our situation at home did not cater for an extra human being. My mother worked as a domestic worker and my father had lost employment when I was in Grade 7. My family was very supportive; I was the one struggling with a guilty conscience. The thought of putting that strain on the family affected me emotionally and pushed me to look for work to take care of my daughter instead of carrying on with my studies. I was not qualified at that stage but had a matric certificate. The only employment I could think of was domestic work. That is where my journey began at the age of 22 and the rest is history.

Was the father of the child in the picture?

At first he was, but not fully. As a result, when my daughter was 18 months old, we separated.

When did you decide to go back to school? Can you take us through that transition?

I decided to pursue my education after finding full-time employment as a domestic worker. With my hard-earned cash, I bought myself a computer. I enrolled for Microsoft Office at a tertiary (long-distance learning) institution. After work, I would sit in my room and learn. My employer was very supportive.

The Microsoft Office Certificate opened many doors for me in the corporate world. I later received an opportunity at an organization that offered funding for all employees who were studying. I used that opportunity to my advantage and acquired a BA degree.

How did you manage life as a single parent?

Discipline and perseverance were my keys to success. I had to prioritize and cut things that took a lot of my time, such as family gatherings, parties, etc., so I could concentrate on my books and parenting my daughter.

At some point, you lost your parents. Can you tell us about that?

My mother died due kidney failure in 2014 at the beginning of my studies. My father lost hope and gave up on life after my mother’s deaths and immediately developed epilepsy. He followed my mom in 2017 just before I graduated. Losing parents during my studying came with an emotional breakdown. Luckily, my daughter gave me reasons to push and fight for a better future.

What do you think gave you the strength to be where you are today?

It is only God who gave strength to work hard and persevere. If it was by my own strength, I would have given up on my career and carried on as a domestic worker.

Tell us more about your book Brightness of Diamonds through Soil.

Brightness of Diamonds through Soil: a domestic worker’s passion for education is my biography. In the book, I have shared an account of my experiences such as growing up in a mud hut on a farm without electricity, living in a shack, being a teenage mother and working as a domestic worker. It is a story of hope and reassurance, to inspire others not to give up on their dreams irrespective of circumstances. 

It is now a charity book to raise funds to assist other helpers who want to pursue their dreams. It is available on Amazon, on our website and in books stores in South Africa.

A lot of opportunities opened for me after my graduation. I am now a public servant in South Africa, working as an Assistant Director. I am the founder and director of a non-profit company named Help One Helper, which aims to empower helpers to start their learning journeys, reach their full potential and change their lives for the better.

What your advice to women who have dealt with unplanned pregnancies, single parents and those who have lost loved ones?

To all women, I would like to say: it is God who gives and takes life. Giving up is not an option no matter the circumstances. Let us appreciate whatever situation we find ourselves in, persevere, work hard, learn from our mistakes and do better. Our children need empowered parents who will create a better future for them. Real empowerment is through education.

What is your superpower as a woman and how does it help you.

My superpower is empowerment to others. I believe that empowerment to one person is empowerment to many, as families also benefit from the success of their member. This helps me to always remember responsibilities of changing lives for the better.

Connect with Ntombizodwa Mahlangu on the following social media handles:

Facebook: Ntombizodwa Merriam Mahlangu
Twitter: @NtombizodwaMer1
Instagram and LinkedIn:  Ntombizodwa Merriam Mahlangu

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