Lerisha Haarvoor’s story is a testament to resilience and determination. Born in Kraaifontein, she experienced a nomadic upbringing before settling in Wellington with her mother during her early childhood.

While her mother provided a constant source of support, the absence of a father figure left a void in Lerisha’s life. The tragic loss of one brother and the departure of the other further emphasised the lack of paternal guidance.

Upon completing her matriculation in 2016, Lerisha faced limited opportunities for higher education. Finding herself without viable prospects, she embarked on finding employment. However, she found it challenging to retain any job for an extended period.

Recognising the need for change, Lerisha realised that she had to overcome her insecurities and seek assistance in pursuing meaningful employment. With her mother already supporting the family, it became evident that she needed to make a positive change for the betterment of herself and her young son.

“It took me a year to realise that I needed to push through my insecurities and find help securing and retaining employment,” Lerisha shared.

Finding a beacon of hope

In her quest for employment, Lerisha stumbled upon the Elevation Programme, a non-profit organisation dedicated to empowering unemployed youth through life skills training, skills development, and job placement.

The programme began with a transformative Foundations for Life course to help learners establish their identity and purpose. Through this course, Lerisha discovered untapped potential within herself and started to believe in her abilities and dreams.

“I went through the two-week programme and learned so much about myself. I was taught to bury all the pain from the past, and I started to believe in myself and my dreams,” Lerisha expressed.

Commitment against all odds

Throughout the programme, Lerisha demonstrated exceptional commitment. Walking close to four hours daily to attend classes, she exemplified her unwavering dedication. Nozuko Nkila, a co-founder of the Elevation Programme, witnessed Lerisha’s growth and unyielding commitment to the programme.

Unbeknownst to Nozuko, Lerisha endured an arduous daily journey to class, keeping her transportation challenges to herself.

“Lerisha never shared her transportation struggles, but this illustrated her dedication and commitment to the programme. We gauge the commitment level of each learner throughout the ten days, and when a student is there every day regardless of obstacles, that is when we can confidently recommend them when opportunities come knocking,” Nozuko said.

Lerisha remained focused on completing the programme, which was the key to a brighter future.

“There was no other option for me. I decided to complete the programme no matter the challenges. My mother and son relied on me to do so,” Lerisha said.

Seizing opportunities

Lerisha’s dedication and eagerness to learn caught the attention of the programme coordinators. She was offered a valuable leadership opportunity, which she eagerly embraced as a stepping stone for personal growth. Recognising her potential, she subsequently secured a work placement at Doolhof Wine Estate in Wellington, where she currently thrives.

A vision for a brighter future

With a three-year-old son who adores cars, Lerisha nurtures the dream of buying him his first toy car. Furthermore, she envisions a future beyond the limitations of her upbringing. While she cherishes her rural roots, Lerisha aspires to explore her entrepreneurial spirit and pursue business ventures with her mother. Ultimately, her greatest joy will be providing her son with a life she never had the privilege to experience.

“I grew up on a farm, but I will not become a farmworker or stay on the farm for the rest of my life. The day I can give my son the life I never had will be the best day of my life,” Lerisha said.