Albertina (Mama) Zuma
Community Leader, Zimele Community
Posted on: May 27, 2012 | Go to profile
Albertina is no stranger to hardship. After losing her mother at ten, spending her childhood working on a sugar plantation, struggling to birth and raise children in poverty during the years of apartheid and working odd jobs to support her family after her husband’s death, she knew how it felt to be a woman or a child with no support and no guarantee of a future. When she met a community facilitator for Zimele, an organization that provides empowerment opportunities to disadvantaged South Africans, Albertina was quick to open her doors and host gatherings. Through Zimele, Albertina gathered a group of women passionate about working with children. Together, they opened a school and gathered funds to support orphaned children in their community. Working as a Zimele leader, Albertina now provides children with the opportunities she wished for as a child and sets them on the path to a sustainable future.
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: One day, a young lady arrived at my home. She was a community facilitator for Zimele and was inviting people to join the self-help groups. I loved what she presented about Zimele. As she showed interest wanting other women to join, I was excited to host these gatherings in my house. I was very glad to be a part of this program helping so many women. We met every week learning more about the Zimele program.
Q: Who is a leader that you have great respect for and why?
A: I admire Rosetta Stander from Zimele Community who has walked alongside me and so many other women in my community. I respect her because of her dedication to helping our people even though she is not from the same upbringing. I see her heart to serve and am truly touched by her compassion.
Q: What are 3 characteristics that you believe define great leadership?
A: Serve the people you are leading.
Follow your heart more than what you know.
Seek the impossible and make it possible.
Q: Innovation requires creative thinking. How do you tap into the creative thinking resources within your business?
A: Innovation is bringing new thinking into your homes and community. I see things from different towns, cultures and people groups and try to make them my own.
Q: Can you share a story of how networking led to a great success?
A: Working with a tight-knit community, networking is crucial to the success of a project. We often do not have the luxury of financial resources or outside mediums. We save as a group and move as one unit. We have to rely on the women in our networks to make progress.
Q: Do you (formally or informally) mentor anyone? If so, who and why is it rewarding?
A: I mentor many women from my community. Many times, I engage in activities that foster mentoring without having it be a structured process. We learn and grow from each other. Knowledge and skill sets are shared in a very organic process. I also lead groups of young women who I have gathered from various walks of life. I have spent much time encouraging them to dream big and start businesses. Many of them have gone on to live out their dreams and be difference makers in our community.
Q: If you had the opportunity to give advice to your younger self at say the age 13, what would you say?
A: You are bigger than the sugar cane fields you are working in. You are just as smart as the kids who are going to school. You are special. You are important. You are a leader. Dream big and live out your dreams.
Q: Is there an example in your life of a time when others were against you or your dream, yet you persevered?
A: Living through the apartheid years, we were forced to move out of our homes and relocate to the rural communities. We faced oppositions that went against our dreams and livelihood. We persevered because we never stopped hoping. We kept taking steps forward to a better life no matter how dark our circumstances. We kept moving towards something more even in the midst of nothing.
Q: What do you think is the key to happiness?
A: Helping my community makes me happy.
Q: What are you most passionate about and how do you incorporate it into your career or everyday life?
A: I am most passionate about working with young children who have no future. I seek out the children and orphans in the most desperate situation. I rally behind my community to bring food they can eat and uniforms so they can go to school. I want them to know that they are equal and should have as much opportunity as anyone else.
Q: Life is full of setbacks. Can you share an experience of one, and how you were able to bounce back?
A: It was a dark day when my husband died. I had a family to feed and no one to put food on the table. I did not know what to do. I was alone, desperate, and could not stand on my own. For many years I got by doing every odd job I could find to feed my children. Somehow, we were surviving as a family. It was then that I received a revelation in my prayers—a revelation about my house. I was to offer my house to God, for His work—to become a safe haven for all women who were burdened and needed a place to pray and recover. That was the beginning of my journey to help others. It was the day I once again found direction in my life.
ON Letting go
Q: What do you do to unwind or disconnect?
A: I love tending my crop and farmland. I love being with my children.
ON Taking Risk
Q: How do you overcome feelings of insecurity, fear or discomfort when deciding to take a risk?
A: Having lived through much fear and discomfort in my life, I feel that I have fewer insecurities. I overcome the insecurities by taking bigger steps and taking on bigger challenges. One by one, things start to work out and my insecurities have changed into confirmations that build my confidence.
ON Giving Back
Q: What cause(s) have you chosen to support and why does it resonate with you?
A: I choose to support causes that help empower women and enable our children. I relate with other women who are struggling to make ends meet and seek to help them along their path. I see the children who have little hope and want to have them start dreaming.
Q: Oprah has that great section in her magazine “What I know for sure”. What do you know for sure?
A: I know for sure that there is a God and He has always looked out for me. It’s reassuring to know there is something bigger than me out there watching out for me.
Q: What are the top 3 things that you do to stay healthy?
A: Eat well, stay away from bad things and pray for good health.
Q: How do you respond to the question “How has having a child changed your life?”
A: I have five children in total but two have mental conditions. Prior to having them in my life, I lived for the moment and did not think thoroughly about the future. After realizing that there may be little support for them after I am gone, I wanted to do more. I wanted to build a way to bring them a better future. It has changed me to think long term and look towards helping the next generation.