I first met Sonja when she was in the process of finalising her book – The uBuntu Girl – detailing her incredible journey across our country. FunDza’s publishing partner, Cover2Cover Books, ended up publishing the book… but through the process Sonja fell in love with FunDza and asked that her book be published on the fundza.mobi network so that it could be read by a wide audience. (Read it here.)
As she promoted her book around the country, so she became a self-appointed FunDza ambassador, spreading FunDza’s love of words, reading and stories to a wide range of communities.
Over time, we found ways of working together more closely. She came on board initially to help with the social media marketing of FunDza, and then she became FunDza’s Community Outreach Officer, running writing workshops and promoting reading in schools, colleges and communities.
Righardt Le Roux, of Nal’iBali, invited her – as FunDza – to work with him on a Reading for Enjoyment Campaign with False Bay College. And, after he left for Gauteng, this project became her ‘baby’. She used her amazing creativity to design a fun-filled reading programme for False Bay College students at both the Fish Hoek and Khayelitsha campuses. This project was sponsored for four years by the HCI Foundation.
We learned so much from the project and it gave us the opportunity to experiment and try out different things. Over the years, the feedback from the college students has been heartfelt about the impact that Sonja’s classes had on their reading journeys, and how these have inspired a lot of writing too.
As one student reported: “I love how FunDza gives young authors in South Africa a chance to write and be recognised for the beautiful work they do. I loved to read most of the short stories because it was easy to relate to. And I think some of them can do better as well. I’m a writer myself so this is a great chance to write my short stories and explore with my talent.”
Sonja also took over the Branding Me workshops, which we’ve run with Etafeni’s Fit for Life, Fit for Work project, and with Communiversity and other groups. She transformed the workshop programme, bringing a freshness to it in response to the needs of the young people she was reaching.
She also ran writing workshops as part of the outreach programme of the Knysna Literary Festival. These were aimed at high school learners in the area, and as always she infused these with her own creative energy, inspiring young people to pick up the pen and speak their truth.
We have been so lucky to have had Sonja as a vital member of the FunDza team over a number of years…
But now Sonja’s heart is leading her on a new path. She has partnered with Dr Kim Wale to facilitate a range of transformation process and workshops that speak to South Africans in the space and time we find ourselves now: a country frequently divided and in pain. These process workshops allow individuals and groups to reflect on their personal histories in relation to the broader national context, particularly along the themes of identity politics (race, class, gender), social relations, privilege and power, and historical trauma. The aim is to facilitate dialogue, understanding and transformative experience within a collaborative and creative learning space. (Find out more about the workshops here.)
We wish Sonja well on this journey. And, we know we are not saying a final goodbye to her… as we know that she carries FunDza in her heart and she is in ours too.
Thank you, Sonja, for infusing your inspirational energy into your work with us, for your passion and commitment and purpose, and for your love and support over the years. It has made a big difference to FunDza and its work. Know that you are loved and appreciated.