Milla van Wyk

“When I finished at school in the year 2000, we had typewriters and we thought that was fancy.”

That says a lot about the small town of Philippolis, and neighbouring Bergmanshoogte, in the Free State province where Milla works as the Good Work Foundation Course Coordinator.

“This is a town full of surprises” says Milla, “like for example, an ex-South African president went to Philippolis High School and the writer and intellectual Sir Laurens van der Post was born in Philippolis. Also, ‘Phili’ is the Free State’s oldest settlement.”

Milla spent her early years living with her grandmother, Katy Samson, on a farm outside of Philippolis, but once she reached primary school age she moved to the town where she lived with her mother (Issabella Rosa Samson) and father (Hassie Israel Padda).

“I can’t remember much but I know I was naughty” laughs Milla. “The town itself offered very few employment opportunities and so many young people end up doing no good, spending the little money that the family is bringing in on the wrong things. I went through that phase, but fortunately I came through it and met Kate Groch while I was volunteering at an old-age home. In June 2010 I formally started computer classes and once I was computer-literate I began working in the Good Work Foundation office as Kate’s assistant.

Milla explains that since she started with Good Work Foundation, together with Lulani Vermeulen (Good Work Foundation Philippolis Project Manager) and Kate Groch, the team has led a number of projects that have benefitted the greater Phili community:

  1. The Future Nature volunteer programme operates out of Phili. Every year teenagers and gap year students spend time in Philippolis engaged in community work, with many of the activities being coordinated by Good Work Foundation
  2. The International Computer Driving License (ICDL) is facilitated by Good Work Foundation at the Bergmanshoogte Primary School
  3. Good Work Foundation built a hall at the VG Kerk which is used by high school students for studying and is also used for adult literacy
  4. Good Work Foundation built – in partnership with other community groups and the greater Philippolis community – the Wielie Walie Preschool and is dedicated to ongoing maintenance of the building and teacher training
  5. Recently, Good Work Foundation helped Milla’s mother, Ouma Issy, to start up her own small business, “The Ouma Issy Sewing Project”
  6. A new kitchen and storeroom have recently been built for Phili’s “Oumas” with funds raised by Good Work Foundation. These selfless women now have a proper “soup kitchen” from where they can help to feed the community’s most vulnerable people.

As well as being a Good Work Foundation veteran (and ICDL graduate), friend and ambassador in Philippolis, Milla is also a trauma counsellor and a HIV/AIDS counsellor. She has her first aid level 1 and 2 and her certificate in counselling for FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome).

“It’s great that my mother and I can work together helping our community, through counselling, community work and feeding schemes, but what is important is that we are providing digital and English literacy education. That’s not a handout, it’s a skill.”

Milla recently visited the Hazyview, Madlala and Londolozi learning centres in Mpumalanga. It was the first time that she had ever been outside of the Free State province – this was a 2000km round trip – and she loved every minute.

“I have visited the ‘hub’ in Hazyview and I’m excited to implement some of their innovative projects in the Free State”.