Trainee chef won’t let fire that burnt all keep her down

2013-10-11 00:00

A YOUNG trainee chef from Lamontville outside Durban is staring adversity right back in the face after losing all her possessions in a shack fire.

Thembelihle Manda (21), a first-year hospitality student at the International Hotel School in Westville, who completed the basic culinary cooking course, said among her lost possessions were a sponsored laptop and a host of important documents.

But never one to feel sorry for herself, Manda is still making the best of the opportunities afforded her, even if it means juggling work, internships and doing assignments on the computer at work.

This is the same determination coupled with academic feats for which she was awarded a bursary to further her hospitality studies at the International Hotel School in Westville.

Manda is currently doing her first year of the three-year course, after graduating from the Ikusasa School of Cooking.

“I started cooking when I was very young, and always wanted to pursue it as a career.”

The shack Manda shared with her domestic worker mother and six siblings had no electricity, and recently a candle was knocked over, causing the curtains to be set alight. The family lost everything.

“My story is not unlike what other shack-dwellers experience with their living conditions, but I refuse to let it dampen my spirit,” she said.

“I am very grateful for the help we received,” she said, after her mother’s employers built the family a small home to replace the shack they lost.

Yesterday, she was invited to the AGM of St Martin’s Children’s Home as a guest of honour.

Manda gave a moving speech. “The daughter of a domestic worker is determined to climb her way to success,” she told guests.

Resource developer at St Martin’s, Michael Almendro, said Manda grabbed opportunities extended to her, and made the most of it.

“She is a sweet, humble person. She has taken the bad situation and turned it around,” he said.

Manda juggles her studies and work, as early this year she started her internship at the Quarters Hotel on busy Florida Road.

“I use the work computer to do my assignments when I’m on night shifts,” she said.

A member of the public, Satish Dhupelia, inspired by Manda’s story, took to social networking site Facebook and shared his experience of meeting the young chef, whom he feels is an example to all.

“It made me think of people who have all the opportunities and funds, but who do not use them,” he wrote.

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