Naledi Madonsela: A Shining Star

It is a wonder her parents knew when this beautiful girl was born that by naming her Naledi, which means star, she would embrace the essence of this burning ball of fire and epitomise everything a star is. She is dazzling, ambitious, she radiates no matter the task at hand and once you come into her orbit you will be captivated.

Reaching for the stars

Naledi started in 2019 at Thornybush Game Lodge  as a student, and she quickly caught everyone’s attention with her enthusiasm and ability to learn quickly. She was chosen to move across to Saseka Tented Camp as part of the launch; here she has grown and flourished, despite the hardships of the last few months. “Currently I am a butler, looking after guests and make sure they have a wonderful experience, that everything here surpasses their expectations. I love working with this team, as well as meeting new guests and creating a memorable experience for them.”

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground

Naledi grew up in a small village called Huntington, on the outskirts of the Sabi Sands. She always had big dreams – as a little girl she wanted to be a news reader, then a pilot, then a conservationist, her ambition was tangible. Encouraged by her father to keep aiming high she decided that after school she was going to become a legal assistant and then hopefully study law. However, things did not work out as she had hoped. Luckily, shortly after this, the opportunity for a scholarship at the SA College for Tourism in Graaf Reinet arose and she jumped at this incredible opportunity. 

This year long course exposed Naledi to all aspects of the hospitality industry, she worked in housekeeping, reception, food and beverage, culinary and front of house. When the course was completed she was awarded a diploma and given a placement at Thornybush which is where our story with this inspiring, young woman began.

There has been no looking back: “Thornybush has been so good to me, I am not thinking of law anymore, hospitality is now my home. It feels like this place has always been part of me, the support and kindness showered upon me by everyone in the team has been so wonderful. I feel so happy all the time and this makes me feel healthy and fortunate.”

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves

Growing up just outside the Kruger National Park, Naledi only had the privilege of visiting this conservation haven once in her life, on a school trip. Funnily, at that point it did not take her interest in the least, but as she got a little older she realised the importance of conserving the animals and these wild spaces for future generations.

She did not expect to end up in the tourism industry but is so grateful she did. She points out that her father was the one who taught her to never give up. He had no education, but worked hard to support his family, making sure they got a good education and stayed inspired. “My father has had the biggest influence in my life, he taught me to take things seriously, to push hard and really want to make it work”. These valuable lessons have clearly paid off.

The stars are the landmarks of the universe

Currently, Naledi is the only one out of her five siblings who is working; she is the sole breadwinner for her family. This is another driving force, edging her forward, making her want more. Naledi represents so many strong women in South Africa wanting to get further in life. 

She is ready to study further in the hospitality sector, and Thornybush will be right there with her, supporting her the whole way, helping her reach the stars.

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