Guest column: Living beyond words
Hardship can give you a deeper appreciation for what you have and drive you to thrive against the odds, writes Lerato Makoropo
My first experience of heartache happened as a little child in Duduza township, where I lived with my parents and extended family. I was the victim of sexual abuse by a cousin for three years – and when I eventually told a female cousin about it, the family was torn apart.
My mother was left to raise me and my two younger siblings on her own. She battled terribly, but she was determined that I should leave the township for a chance at a brighter future. I opted to study labour relations at Vaal Technikon (now the Vaal University of Technology) without really knowing what it was about, but as I grew to understand it better, I fell in love with it.
Life at university wasn’t plain sailing with the ongoing financial difficulties in my family, but I persevered, studied hard, earned bursaries and achieved a National Diploma in Labour Relations, followed by a BTech in labour relations. I’ve continued studying and obtained a Certificate in Employee Wellness from Unisa, as well as a BCom Honours.
My career epitomises my love for human resources and my resolve to make a difference. I worked for Emperors Palace, Edcon and Itec before joining Tsogo Sun at Gold Reef City as HR Manager in 2012 and then Montecasino as HR Manager in 2014.
I love the way my work exposes me to a diverse spectrum of people and cultures and allows me the freedom to be innovative. It’s a job where you can see the evidence of how you’re impacting other people’s lives in a positive and fulfilling way.
Other hardships followed. In 2015, I battled with ill-health and after a period of excessive pain and endless tests, I learnt that one of my kidneys was failing. No-one in my family had ever had an organ removed and it caused much stress, with relatives pleading with me not to do it. But I did have the kidney removed and I haven’t looked back health-wise.
Through the years of advancing my career and dealing with health issues, my personal relationships were suffering and it was only recently that I tackled the underlying causes. I came to realise that the initial abuse and rejection I’d endured so long ago impacted much of my life – I was robbed of healthy relationships with family members and loved ones.
I’ve been coming to terms with the realities of my past, recognising the impact it’s had on my responses to people, and I’ve been making an effort to rebuild relationships.
I can’t let my past define who I am, but I also needed to acknowledge how it had affected me. Traumas have a long-term effect on many lives, especially on youngsters who’ve been abused. My hope is that my experiences will help others – children, adults who suffered abuse as children, and parents. Don’t sweep the truth under the carpet and don’t avoid getting help and support.
My experiences have made me an overcomer and given me a strong sense of self, of empathy, of humour and of the value of developing people to their full potential.
I can’t let my past define who I am, but I also needed to acknowledge how it had affected me.