Martha Willemse is a single mother of two from Wesbank, Kuilsriver. She was offered an opportunity by a retired couple, who kindly funded her registration fee and uniform to start a programme in Health and Frail Care.

“Auntie Nina and Uncle Mike invited me in for a cup of coffee, asking me what I would like to do with my life. They encouraged me to start with a programme at Bergzicht Training and Development & Development and to learn how to take good care of the people I have a heart for,” Willemse relates.

“I enjoyed the whole course from start to finish. I discovered my life passion and how to improve myself,” she says. “When I first started with the programme, I felt so young, like I was at school, even though most of us were around 40 years old. I couldn’t wait to arrive in the morning.”

The programme also gave her an opportunity to experience healing, helping her change for the good. She especially appreciated the camaraderie with the other women as they could give each other an ear to acknowledge the pain they were facing in other areas of their lives.

She successfully graduated during September 2021 and proceeded to do her Work Integrated Learning (WIL) at Klaradyn Retirement Village in Brackenfell. Within a month, she was recommended by the Klaradyn nursing manager for a career in independent living. Willemse says the staff were impressed that arranging additional training was not necessary  as she was so well equipped for the position.

Klaradyn Nursing Manager Sister Driekie Rossi says Willemse is always willing to walk the extra mile. “She serves with tenderness, respecting every person’s dignity and showing true commitment.”

Willemse says the dementia training was especially helpful, enabling her to respond well to hard situations that can easily be very overwhelming. The steps she was taught to follow in these cases also empowered her to put the families of the client at ease.

“Without this opportunity, my life would have been very different; I would feel lost. The families that I have worked with have told me I am a very good carer.”

Johan Smith, the son of one of her clients, describes Martha as “a very special person.” The Smiths especially value her professionalism, patience and the special friendship their mother enjoys with her. “Even though she’s very ill, had a fall and suffers from dementia, my mother laughs and makes jokes when Martha is around. Martha’s communication is excellent and her calmness through the difficult times is comforting,” Smith says. Despite Mrs Smith’s very particular taste in food, Martha’s cooking is also greatly appreciated and approved. “She’s cut out for her job.”

Willemse says she enjoys sharing the progress of her clients recovering from illnesses with their families. Despite the very draining nature of her job –  and calling – she is grateful for the rewarding experience. “I really put in everything, even when I felt overwhelmed and tired, learning patience and keeping good faith.”

Continually eager to learn more about nursing, Willemse aims to specialise in obstetrics with her eyes set on becoming a superintendent at a hospital. “I am committed to the process to keep on improving myself,” she says.

Bergzicht Training and Development & Development’s advanced Health and Welfare SETA (HWSETA)-accredited Health and Frail Care Programme is a full-time 15-week programme. Consisting of five weeks’ theoretical and practical training in a classroom, learners are trained to take care of a sick or frail patient, an elderly person or a sick baby/child. Successful participants progress to 10 weeks of practical work through WIL at one of 26 care institutions across the Western Cape, including specialist children’s hospitals and old age homes. They also regularly obtain employment at the institutions where they complete their practical training.