Valley of a Thousand Dreams
My name is Sbu Myeni and I grew up in a very rural community in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It’s developed into a semi-urban community, where the effects of HIV/ AIDS are widespread.
I applied for the Global Ambassadors Program because I have always been a firm believer in mentorship, having worked in the banking sector. My career growth took shape when I consulted senior managers and asked them to mentor me.
After leaving banking to establish the Imbeleko Foundation, an educational organization for high-achieving yet vulnerable children and orphans in my community, I needed guidance in certain aspects where I was facing challenges, especially in marketing and branding. I also needed to grow my network for fundraising purposes and I had read the GAP’s success stories and the high caliber of mentors. I was keen to become one of the alumnae of the program.
One-on-one sessions with Kathleen (Matthews) were the highlight of the program for me. GAP came when I was at the crossroad of my journey of life. I was finally finding my own identity without my twin sister, but was struggling to separate myself from her legacy.
Kathleen was the best placed person to take me through this journey of separation. I didn’t have to tell her, she just picked it up through our conversations and her validation of my taking my own path — by focusing on the strategic oversight of Imbeleko, rather than the operational day-to-day. I began to allow my life to take its own shape, whilst allowing Imbeleko to follow its own destiny.
I can only soar from here, with Kathleen as the constant wind beneath my wings. I have learned everything I expected to learn and more. This experience has been surreal and will carry me to the greatest of heights.
In June, I travelled to the U.S. to spend time with Kathleen and other Global Ambassadors Program mentors I had identified as instrumental in guiding me to achieve the objectives I had set at the beginning of the program. Their input has been life-changing as I strive toward setting up a philanthropy tourism social enterprise. It will help the Imbeleko Foundation generate sustainable revenue as opposed to seeking donations — a goal Kathleen and I had agreed to, back in March.
Sbu with her mentor Kathleen Matthews at the Global Ambassadors Program reunion lunch in Washington, D.C.
Through the Global Ambassadors Program’s social media training and exposure through Vital Voices, Imbeleko is better positioned to reach South African corporate entities, funders and the government, taking us a step closer to realizing our vision, Valley of a Thousand “Dreams,” — a place where all children have opportunities to grow, thrive and become who they want to be.
In spring 2016, Sbu reported on having expanded operations at Imbeleko to include consulting and social impact tourism. In October, she participated as an Eisenhower Fellow in its inaugural Africa Program, touring the U.S. and learning best practices in building her new venture.