After overcoming many obstacles to get to where she is today, Denise Windvogel (photo) is determined to deal with another – the dangers and challenges posed by COVID-19 to those working in the health care profession and on the frontline to save lives.

“At the beginning, one felt helpless because you knew so little about this virus, but thanks to Bergzicht Training and Development we were regularly provided with information via our WhatsApp group about how to stay safe and healthy and protect yourself against infection,” says Denise, who works as a frail care assistant at the Fleur de Lis Old Age Home in Franschhoek.

Denise completed the HWSETA-accredited Health and Frail Care Programme of Bergzicht Training and Development.

Things were also tough at home during lockdown, says Denise.

“It was tough working a night shift and then worrying about bringing COVID home as my late father was really ill during this time. I am just thankful that God carried me through. I was also fortunate that the old age home did not close down and that I could continue working and support my family financially. But still, I was always worried about contracting the virus as I often had to use public transport to travel and the protocols are not always followed there.”

Denise had always imagined that she would become a teacher or work in the medical field when she finished school. However, while she was in matric, she fell pregnant and failed matric as she struggled to balance being a single mother with her studies and looking for work. There was also no money for her to continue studying.

“I had to redo all my subjects the following year. After matric, I stayed at home for six months. When my father was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in 2011, it really hit our family hard as he could not work,” she says.

However, Denise was able to find work at a local creche.

“My mother and I had to work in order to keep our household going.”

Then she heard about Bergzicht Training and Development from a friend. After completing the organisation’s entry level programme, she was selected for its advanced programme in health and frail care.
“I developed a love for the profession when I looked after my father.”

But getting to Bergzicht Training and Development was not that easy. Denise would have to travel from Franschhoek to Stellenbosch each day and it would be expensive.

“I had no money and it was difficult to pay R600 to R800 per month for transport. So I worked at one of the local farms for two months to save the money before I started the programme. I also received a lot of support from my parents. They were my pillars of support and helped to take care of my son so that I could study for tests in the evenings.”

She’s thankful that she was able to pursue her goal through Bergzicht Training and Development and that she can now support her patients during one of the biggest pandemics the world has faced.

“One thing this virus has taught us, is that it doesn’t matter who you are, whether you’re rich or poor, or have an education or not, it can affect anyone. But I also believe that it has brought all of us closer to each other and has taught us to show real love, respect and care for our fellow human beings.”