In 2003, Au Pair in America partnered with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund to provide a scholarship for a deserving young woman to come to the United States on the program. A team of community counselors, our South African agent, Symonne Wilson, and Jean Quinn, Deputy Director, went to Johannesburg to interview several final candidates and make our choice, Bawinile Ledwaba (Winnie).
Winnie was chosen because of her commitment to children, her ability to overcome the hardship and violence that were prevalent in her neighborhood, and her desire to come back to South Africa to continue with her work with children and women with HIV/AIDS. Winnie stayed in the United Statesfor two years (in Ohio and Colorado).
Read below to see how Winnie is doing today and how she feels the Au Pair in America program helped her fulfill her dreams.
“I can’t believe it’s been almost 7 years since I returned from the US, it feels like yesterday. I still miss the food, people I met, friends, the snow, shopping, hanging out sports but mostly my host family.
Winning the Nelson Mandela Scholarship has impacted my life in a very positive way thus reminding me how important it is to give to the less fortunate. Without the scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to just pack up and go live in Colorado and I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunity given to me, let alone the experience. This programme built my character. I have recently initiated a programme helping women to deal with all life issues and it’s doing great. I’m also furthering my studies in psychology with the University of South Africa (UNISA).
I since gotten married( in 2007) and blessed with two kids a 4yr old girl and a 10 month old son. Currently I am a stay at home mom raising my son( ohhhh he’s a bundle of joy:) ). It’s now that I have my own kids that I understand how difficult it is to trust a foreign stranger with these delicate souls. If I were to be given another chance, I would gladly do it again.
I would recommend this programme to young women, it truly is a great and life changing opportunity and a privilege to be trusted so much by people who don’t really know you with their lives more importantly their kids. ”
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I was one of the community counselors who had the amazing experience of going to South Africa with APIA, going to Winnie’s school and picking her for the scholarship. It was a great experience for us as well and we were overwhelmed by the vivaciousness and energy of the students like Winnie at the school. All the counselor who went on this trip still work for Au Pair in America!
Thanks, Barb, for your comment. Would be great to have the other community counselors on the trip chime in about their memories of the experience.
Thanks Barb for giving us your first-hand experience. We do have an amazing group of counselors as well as amazing au pairs.