PhoebeIt was April 2012. The FunDza office was based around my diningroom table. Phoebe Sibomana, a family friend of Ros’, was completing her honours in Social Development at UWC and needed to get some job place experience. She contacted Ros, a family friend, who passed her on to me.

Phoebe started at FunDza, initially coming in just a couple of days a week, and then more during her holiday breaks. From the start she took working incredibly seriously. Showing maturity beyond her years, displaying a real willingness to learn.

In the beginning Phoebe assisted Dorothy with servicing our growing number of beneficiary groups, making sure that they received their parcels of books in good order. We’d have madcap packing days with masses of books being wrapped and posted to groups around the country. We didn’t have helpful systems to handle mass deliveries – Phoebe ensured that the right books were sent to the right group at the right time. She was invaluable.

She saw FunDza take its first baby steps, moving from my diningroom table to our first office on the Main Road in Muizenberg in October/November of that year. It was tiny. We were SO proud of our new home.

At the end of that 2012 year when talking about what she’d do once she had her degree, she told me, “You need me! I’ll carry on working for you.”

She was right. And so she did.

Working initially as the administrator for both FunDza and Cover2Cover, she made certain that both organisations were kept in order. Doing invoicing and book deliveries for Cover2Cover to bookshops around the country and doing the administration for our beneficiary groups too. She helped us transition to systems to better manage our workflows and learned fast as we went along.

In January 2013, she helped to welcome Zimkhitha to our fledgling team. And, from there on out, for every new staff member, volunteer or intern, Phoebe became the go-to person/trainer in the organisation. She knew all the ins and outs of the organisation, where everything was kept (whether in a filing cabinet or a dropbox). Most importantly, she was a good teacher – something that I am not – effectively getting everyone up to speed whether updating the site or gathering M&E data. She was systematic, organised and dependable.

She embraced all we did at FunDza and was inspired to write too. She wrote a number of short stories – some mentored and some not (see her profile here). She also organised a children’s story for the site each week (sometimes writing these herself) and she took over the Just Trendi blog and became expert at commissioning all staff – and in fact anyone associated with FunDza – to write a blog post. It started out as a fashion blog but Phoebe helped Just Trendi venture into culture, commentary and trend analysis too.

Phoebe has seen our organisation shift and change, and journey through the many trials and tribulations, successes and celebrations we’ve had over the years.

But, now it’s time for Phoebe to start her a journey of her own… Earlier this year she started studying a Montessori teaching course part-time, and loved it, particularly the work with young children. Now she is moving across to our friends at Biblionef where she’ll be helping to train ECD and Foundation phase teachers to use the books that Biblionef provides to schools and organisations countrywide.

We are heartsore to see her leave us. Phoebe is resourceful and responsible. She shows a deep commitment to learning and personal growth. She is kind, loving and lovable – a loyal friend and compatriot. She is unfailingly honest and dependable, but tempered with humour and a lightness of touch.

From a very personal perspective I will miss her deeply. She knew me – inside out. She could read me well. And, I could ask her to do just about anything and, because of her long-learned insider knowledge, she’d know just what to do and just where to find things, without any fuss. Most importantly, I knew I could rely on her to tell me the truth – even when it was critical of me or went contrary to whatever I believed was right. This is a valuable strength and a true gift.

So, while we’re sad for ourselves, we are immensely happy that she has found a new home, particularly one that holds books and reading in its heart. We wish her so much happiness, so much success, and so much love.