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Interview: Pat van Der Merwe shares her #NMCHJourney

NMCH Trust Manager, Patricia Van Der Merwe or “Sis’ Pat” as she is affectionately known, has been with the Hospital Trust since the days when the hospital was just a blue sky idea. She’s seen it all: the idea come to life, the fundraising initiatives, the breaking of ground and now the rise of the actual building. Below she shares her #NMCHJourney…

You’ve been with the hospital since the early days when it was still an idea, please take us back to the first presentation you guys did and how you were feeling…

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The first presentation made to the trustees of Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (way back in 2004!) was no more than an idea based on a discussion between our CEO Ms Bongi Mkhabela, Madiba and Mama Graca Machel. We believed that better healthcare for children was not a luxury but a necessity.

What were some of the challenges you went through in the early days?

Once we had defined the vision and mission for the hospital, the most difficult task was getting all the roleplayers to “buy in” to the vision. Some were excited, some were skeptical and some refused to even listen! We pressed on with the vision, knowing we had the support of our trustees.

It’s always overwhelmingly beautiful to see a concept or an idea come to life, how are you feeling seeing the hospital literally rise from the ground day by day?

I get very emotional every time I visit the site or look at pictures of the project. So many memories crowd my mind.

What are your most memorable moments since you starting work at NMCH?

I think for me, the most memorable occasions were when Madiba dedicated the hospital site in July 2009. It was a momentous occasion. Then again at the ground-breaking ceremony – it was then I realised that all the hard work had paid off and the dream was now a reality.

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What is your role as the hospital’s Trust Manager?

I am responsible for governance and all the Trust’s business processes. We are a small team and play an integral role in the project – we are very hands on and everyone works together to make this project a success – whether it be making a cup of tea or attending a board meeting!

Looking back to the first presentation/ concept document. Did you ever think you’d get to where you are today?

I did. I had to. If I didn’t believe that the hospital would be built I would not have the strength to stay on board for this period of time.

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What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned on this journey so far?

When you feel like you have given your all and the end result seems so far away, persevere – its closer than you realise!