Celebrating heroes who have overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic was the theme of the day as Bergzicht Training and Development honoured its frail care alumni who have been in employment for a year or longer.

Addressing the alumni, Nathalie Skippers, who is responsible for Student Mentoring and Support at Bergzicht Training and Development, said: “This event is to celebrate you.”

“I remember many of you were anxious when you came here for your interviews, yet here you are today, working in the industry,” said Skippers.

“Thank you for making it easier for us through your commitment to succeeding,” she said.

Skippers lamented the fact that COVID-19 had limited Bergzicht Training and Development’s intake this year , but on the other hand also highlighted the need for frail care workers.

“We want to acknowledge the frail care workers who really had to fight the fight out there.”

She made special mention of those graduates who had been on the frontline and had contracted COVID-19, recovered, and returned to work determined to continue to make a contribution in the fight against the virus.

Adrian Bezuidenhout, Training Manager at Bergzicht Training and Development, also paid tribute to Frail Care facilitators, Hester Gelderblom and Lesley Jones, Child Care facilitator, Hilary Wentzel, and all of the Life Skills facilitators for their outstanding work and dedication to their students during a very difficult and challenging pandemic year.

Guest speaker Sr Rene Da Silva, addressed those at the event via Zoom. Da Silva is Head of Nursing at Stellenbosch Hospital.

“I think that COVID-19 justified the ability and importance of our profession as carers and nurses in fighting on the frontline worldwide.”

She shared how healthcare professionals on the frontlines are making a difference by helping and educating patients and their families.

“During the height of the pandemic, healthcare workers such as carers played a vital role in fighting the virus. They assisted with screenings, and identifying people in their communities who had to be referred for testing at testing sites,” she said.

This enabled the government to identify hotspots and respond accordingly.

“The most vulnerable group this time are our elderly, which increases the value of well-trained carers. Healthcare workers and carers also assisted us to help fight Covid-19, thus we cannot thank you enough,” Da Silva said.

Dr Hannes Koornhof, a member of Bergzicht Training and Development’s Board, said that at Bergzicht Training and Development the priority was not only to help beneficiaries get a job, but also keep a job and build a career.

During the celebration, Portia Sidmile, Shirley-Ann Hatting, Andiswa Ndlazulwana, Charmaine Sykes and Jo-Anne Harris were named as the top achieving alumni of 2020. Each of the winners received a smartphone from Ackermanns.

According to Portia Sidmile, who has worked at Hospicare Stellenbosch since 2019, she learned how to take care of frail patients in practice at the frail care and assisted living facility when she completed the work-integrated learning (WIL) component of the HWSETA-accredited Health and Frail Care Programme offered by Bergzicht Training and Development. Today she still applies what she learnt then.

“I learned how to communicate, how to love and care for older people, and how to handle them [when providing care]. ”

Shirley-Ann Hattingh, who works at George and Annie Starck Homes in Bellville, said that the training she completed during the WIL component of her studies was crucial as it taught her the importance of patience to her job.

“You have to be patient working with the elderly, because many times they do not even know [due to dementia for example] what is going on around them.”

For Andiswa Ndlazulwana, who worked at George and Annie Starck Homes until lockdown, her WIL training helped her become a better carer.

“I learned more about self-care and how it impacts on the lives of others, especially those you work with,” said Ndlazulwana who worked as a relief carer at Spescare, a sub-acute and rehabilitation hospital in Stellenbosch, for three months from May to July 2020 and is now permanently employed at the same establishment.

Charmaine Sykes, who started as relief carer in December 2019 at Serenitas Retirement Centre, is now permanently employed at centre since April 2020.

“As a carer there I learned about working within certain time limits and making sure all tasks and duties are completed within that time,” she said.

Bergzicht Training and Development also taught her how to be assertive, she added.

“Before I started at Bergzicht Training and Development I was an introvert but now I am more of an extrovert.”

Jo-Anne Harris, who completed her practical training at Geluksoord and La Clémence, both in Stellenbosch, has been working at Geluksoord since September 2019.

According to Harris, she “learned to respect people” in the same way that she wanted to be respected and to live what she had learned.

She added: “Bergzicht Training and Development changes your whole life. It changes your world perspective and helps you to realise what heights you can reach and how far you can push.”

Photo: Here are the five top achieving alumni of 2020. In the front from the left are Portia Sidmile, Jo-Anne Harris and Shirley-Ann Hattingh. In the back are Andiswa Ndlazulwana (left) and Charmaine Sykes. (Lynne Rippenaar-Moses)