This week’s blog is written by S’bongiseni Vilakazi, PPI-SA’s recently departed Managing Director. Sbo has already started a new position as Managing Director of The Valley Trust, a Valley of 1000 Hills based non-profit focused on health promotion and personal development. Former PPI-SA Managing Director, and current PPI Director of Operations, Tal Alter, had the following to say about Sbo’s period at the helm of PPI-SA:
“Sbo’s departure will be a great loss to PPI. In his nearly three years with the organization, Sbo has made an indelible impact on our operations in Durban. He has managed a difficult transition to local leadership, including overseeing 100% turnover of the local Board, and has been a champion of professional development for his staff, building a program that is poised for sustainability. His passion for the mission of PPI – SA has always been evident, and he has tackled the challenges of his post head on, with thoughtfulness and great skill.”
Sbo leading a workshop at the Laureus International Summit in November 2011.
As I begin the New Year and my tenure at my new place of employment, I find myself looking back on my three years with PPI – SA with much fondness and gratitude. I am highly appreciative of the experiences and growth I underwent at PeacePlayers, and much of it I know will stay with me for the rest of my life.
What stands out the most for me is working with young people that make up the staff of the organisation. I loved seeing their energy and commitment to PPI, and their desire to develop themselves. I enjoyed Mandla, Nasiphi, Thobani or some other young person come up to me to ask for assistance with something work related or personal. While I did not interact with the coaches as much as I would have liked, I also had a good relationship with many of them that extended beyond just PPI. It was impossible to be in the company of PSP or LDP participants without being struck by the reverence with which they hold the organisation and its staff. These interactions made me realise the important role PPI plays in the lives of our participants at all levels.
Sbo with Indigo Youth Movement Founder Dallas Oberholzer in the Valley of 1000 Hills.
Another highlight was the personal growth I underwent. Being at the helm of an organisation with such a rich history, I quickly learned to appreciate the importance of building positive relationships with stakeholders. I found that donors, school officials and other partners had a high regard for the organisation that came from their interactions with those who had come before me, and expected nothing less from me. I met many parents who spoke of the positive input PPI had made into the lives of their children, and who expressed strong support for what the work of the organisation. I also had a conversation with a school rep whose school has been a PPI partner for close to 10 years, who informed me that she would ‘stand on her head’ in support of the organisation.
Being MD also needed me to have difficult conversations with colleagues, many of whom I considered friends. I tend to avoid conflict, but I had to learn that there is a need to confront issues that made me uncomfortable, and that confrontation did not necessarily need to escalate to warfare. I also learned that the essence of teamwork is patience and tolerance for differences between people. I got to see in practical ways that a team is stronger than an individual not in spite of differences, but because of them.
Sbo, with Laureus project leaders and ambassadors, at the November 2011 International Summit in London. Sbo had the opportunity to meet one of his heroes, boxer Marvin Hagler.
And can I ever forget the overseas trips? PPI made it possible for me to go to international destinations (and local, for that matter) that were previously only a pipe dream. Hawaii, Cyprus, the UK… I have happy memories from these trips forever etched in my memory. The partnership with Laureus, in particular, afforded me the opportunity of meeting many of my sporting heroes: Nadia Comaneci, Baby Jake, Lucas Radebe, Michael Johnson. I could hardly contain my excitement in London when I got to meet one of my favourite boxers of all time, ‘Marvellous’ Marvin Hagler!
Of course, every family, or work environment, has its challenges. Yet the challenges are also often the source of the greatest growth for an individual or a relationship between individuals. I thank all associated with PPI – South Africa – my colleagues in the SA office, the Board of Directors, the US staff and staff from other PPI sites, the school principals and reps, donors, friends of the organisation, participants in all the organisation’s programmes, community members and others – for their support in my time here.
Wishing you all the very best for 2012 and beyond!
The entire PPI global family wishes Sbo all the best with his transition and hopes he continues to stay a part of the PPI-SA program for the years to come!