Vuyo Lutseke has played a pivotal role in overseeing the communications of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust for over 5 years, from inception through to completion. Read below as she reflects and reminisces on the journey thus far.
What does your role as Media and Communications Officer at NMCH entail?
Simply put, my role is to oversee all communications around the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital project. This involves everything from ensuring that the fundraising team has all the materials they have when approaching potential donors, to ensuring a comprehensive public awareness and fundraising campaign. We also aim to keep all our stakeholders (private and public) updated on the progress of the project. The reality, however, is that we’re such a small team that we do whatever is required of us. (Go team!)
NMCH already has great significance as it will change the lives of children of Southern Africa; can you share some of your highlights since you started working on it?
There have been so many highlights – since my first day as part of this team. On one end are the small victories that come, simply when you see the light come on in a person’s eye and they truly understand the importance and magnitude of a project like this one.
The most unforgettable moment for me was the morning that we broke ground and seeing equipment at the hospital site, signifying the start of construction. After years of hard work, it was a really emotional time for all of us as a team, and we had to take a moment to acknowledge that vision was truly becoming a reality.
As a Media and Communications Officer, what would you say is the main message that you hope to communicate through Nelson Mandela’s legacy?
Since becoming part of this organisation, I’ve learnt that we, as a society, tend to look to others to solve problems that affect us. In doing so, we give up the power we have in our own lives; to make a difference. I believe that we need to take control – if there is something you want to be better, do something about it; start the conversation, have a plan… Take the lead and do your bit to make things better, and people who believe in what you are doing will join you and support you. But it has to start somewhere, and that start could be with you.
You’ve been working at NMCH for over 5 years, what has the process been like for you watching the hospital come to life?
Working here, no two days are the same. Even after five years, it’s as invigorating to be here as it was during my first week working at the Hospital Trust. I came from a deadline-driven and intense publishing environment, which has served me well here. It also helps to keep your eye on the prize (building the hospital and ultimately changing children’s lives for generations to come). It’s also important to be flexible and solution-driven; there is no formula to raising R1 billion!
How has your job helped or influenced your life?
The idea of changing the world is addictive – life-affirming. Being part of a team that is so driven has challenged me, and pushed me to constantly think about making every situation better. Being at the Hospital Trust has also awarded me the privilege of being in the same space as some incredible people who I look up too, personally and professionally. I try to absorb all the skills I’ve learnt here to better my life, both personally and professionally.
What are a few things that you enjoy about working on a project like NMCH?
My colleagues – it’s a high-pressure working environment and we are a small team. It’s quite busy, we all work hard, but we all get along very well and we do take the time to laugh often.The children! Through our For Kids By Kids campaign, we work a lot with children and child-related organisations. Children are always a joy to be around, and being with children helps us to keep in mind why we do what we do.The hospital building itself. Seeing an idea materialise is always a thrill. Visits to the hospital construction site are never boring because new developments are constantly springing up.
What are your hopes for the future at NMCH and child healthcare in general?
That the hospital shows people how important it is to dedicate space for our children and their healing – and not just as part of an adult hospital. I hope that in future, there will be many more children’s hospitals, more research, more skilled professionals… enough to lessen the queues of children needing this type of care. Finally, I hope that our children are able to reach their full potential as future leaders, businesspeople, academics, philosophers and sportspeople of Africa.