When Ntombeko Napakade passed his matric exams with flying colours in 2006 and enrolled for an accountancy course at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), his future looked brighter than a star.
But life took a difficult turn when he was forced to drop out of varsity in his first year due to lack of funds to pay his tuition fees.
However, this didn’t break his fighting spirit and instead he shifted his focus to doing something else with his life.
The 32-year-old father of three now works at Gugulethu community health clinic as the health promoter and he is smiling from ear to ear after being recognised for his good work by the provincial government.
He was awarded a Gold Award for Best Overall Batho Pele (Citizen-Centric) Public Servant by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille on Monday August 28.
The annual excellence service awards were held at Newlands and is aimed at encouraging and recognising the sterling work that public servants were doing in rendering crucial services to the community.
“As we take a moment to recognise the hard work and dedication of our colleagues, it is also a good occasion to evaluate our progress as a government,” said Ms Zille.
Mr Napakade said he never imagined himself being rewarded for his work and he has no precise words to describe how he feels about the award.
He said when he looks back at his life and where he is today he feels overwhelmed with emotions.
Mr Napakade said after he dropped out of school he was angry and did not know what to do with his life.
He then heard about the Ethafeni organisation and opted to volunteer and assist where he could.
He said he had never imagined himself educating people about health and advising them how to live a healthy lifestyle.
But just after a year of volunteering he was hired on a permanent basis and immediately placed to work at the clinic to educate patients about healthy living.
But he said when he started working at the organisation he knew nothing about health issues and he had to attend various rigorous training programmes to equip himself.
Mr Napakade said in 2013 he was employed by the clinic and left the Ethafeni organisation. “God works in mysterious ways. I never allowed hardship to break my spirit.
“Life is all about taking our misfortunes and turning them into something positive.
“When one door closes two more doors are opening and we should never allow challenges to bring us down.”
He said at the beginning he was just volunteering because he had nothing to do, but over the years he developed a passion for his work.
He said he realised that when one works at an NGO you can make a meaningful impact on the lives of other people.
He said the award is a team effort and rewrites the history of the clinic. He said the award is the evidence that there were dedicated staff at the clinic.
He heaped praised on the senior staff who recognised his potential and gave him an opportunity.
He said the challenges he faces when dealing with patients make him a better person and he is always learning news ways of dealing with them. He advised young people to volunteer not because they have nothing to do, but because they want to make a difference in the lives of other people.