By Kay-Dee Mashile
I often say that ACTIVATE! connects its members with peers that they can walk with, mentors who can help them to progress and mentees whom they can help get to where they are. As an Activator, one is constantly on a journey of growing; helping others grow, and walking with others as you grow. I remember when I first heard about ACTIVATE! in 2016. The organisation hosted an Imbizo on campus and I happened to be in the building, waiting for the student parliament sitting. I must have been early or Leadership was late. I actually thought they had moved the parliament sitting downstairs because all the people a saw at the Imbizo were Leadership, so I attended. Even before I walked into the venue, an Activator friend asked me with a big smile how long I had been an “Activator”. Little did I know, in only about a year from then, I too would have a proud answer to that question. From 2016/17 to this day, owning that title has changed my life for the best! This is my journey and why I am proud to be called an Activator.
I have had the rather unique privilege of working with the organisation and then for the organisation quite early in my A! journey. This exposed me to many Activators and the amazing work they do. When I first started writing for the A! Blog, I was fresh out of module one. The Free State hosted an A! Engagement which I happened to help plan with other Activators. I love how the network felt like home even before I was officially a member. There was never a time when I felt sidelined for being a “first year” or a newbie (they did joke about it though). Everyone welcomed my willingness to be involved. It was during that engagement that I first met Zilungile, who was the then PR and Comms Assistant at ACTIVATE! She introduced me to the freelancing opportunity and encouraged me to submit an article. Little did I know, only a year later, I would be taking over her position in the Comms Team.
I knew when I first met Aunty Lu, at training, that Comms was exciting and that I’d love to work with the team. Everyone I had met by then was lovely, so freelancing it was. I had no idea I’d pack my bags, leave the Free State and work with them daily! But that’s not why my A! Journey was so amazing, it was the Activators, honestly. As part of the Comms Team, one becomes so involved in the network that you cannot but be inspired to grow. I started my publishing company in 2014/5. Long before I even knew what ACTIVATE! was. I remember Nthabeleng mentioning it when I first met her, but I didn’t know anything beyond that. So the idea of running a business instead of pursuing the career that I was in University for was not appealing. But after joining the network, and seeing young people succeed in their own journeys as entrepreneurs, I knew that I too could do it. I wanted to do it.
I joined ACTIVATE! as a student who was too afraid to dream outside of the box of a permanent job with full benefits, today I am a successful entrepreneur and artist, I cannot imagine what my life would have looked like had I not met the people I met through the network. Young people who have inspired and challenged me to soar from height to height. I’m now part of a family of inspirational young people who aren’t just comrades but brothers and sisters. I’ve seen Activators help each other with life issues. I’ve seen some Activators offer other Activators a place to sleep and food to eat when they were stranded. I’ve shared many moments of joy and endless laughter with Activators. Sat up one too many nights at conferences in joyous and challenging conversations. I even get the privilege of doing life with some Activators who have become lifelong friends. I’ve done business with some Activators and felt the pain of losing some dear Activators who have retired to glory. The network has taught me compassion, integrity, love and the true meaning of Activism. I am privileged to be counted among the Change Drivers of our generation.
I’m not where I thought I’d be at this age; I don’t even think I’m anywhere close. But even better, I am where I never imagined I would ever be – which is both scary and exciting. #iAmAnActivator!