against all odds Itumeleng Sekhu
“I WAS ABLE TO PUSH PAST THE BARRIERS OF LOW SELF-ESTEEM AND DISCOVER MY STRENGTH, RESILIENCE AND UNIQUE ABILITY TO SEE THAT BEAUTY GOES DEEPER THAN SKIN.”
Itumeleng Sekhu is the founder and MD of the Itumeleng Sekhu Foundation, a philanthropic NPO, and author of the book What do you see ?, which is her story of courage and fortitude in the face of the permanent disfigurement she suffered after being burnt in a fire as a toddler. Sekhu, 30, graduated from UJ in 2014 with a BA in Audiovisual Communications, majoring in communications, psychology and media studies, sponsored by the Dischem Foundation. By then, she was already a media personality, working with a number of Christian programmes including ONE Gospel channel (DStv) and Friends Like These on SABC 1, as well as The Sound Revival and The Sacred Space on Metro FM, and Making Moves on Bonngoe.tv. “My psychology major equipped me to have good relations in the media and in my life. I have been able to relate to almost everyone in both the workspace and in my
Sekhu’s mother was her guiding light throughout her childhood – “through her strength and tenacity, she continued in life, no matter what storms hit her” – but ultimately it was Sekhu’s faith that enabled her to find her path in life. “I was determined to live my life as God intended. It was my acceptance of Him as my Father that was instrumental in helping me to navigate my way through the obstacles that constantly threatened to overwhelm me”. “I was able to push past the barriers of low self-esteem and discover my strength, resilience and unique ability to see that beauty goes deeper than skin. My challenge to readers of my book is to look beyond the scars on the outside, and see who I am, a strong woman with a beautiful soul and indomitable spirit”, she says. While at UJ, Sekhu became a project manager for the Sbusiso Leope Education Foundation, which assists hundreds of students with bursaries to continue with tertiary education. She was in
Tshwane, Sekhu got severely burnt when a candle fell on her at home. She was only 11 months old. Her right hand, as well as four fingers on her left hand, were amputated as a result. “I was practically raised in Muelmed Hospital in Pretoria until I was about 15 years old. I had 104 surgical procedures, and in-between I attended Hope School in Johannesburg and Pretoria School, which are both schools for physically challenged learners”, she says. Although she was a bright learner, school was difficult at times, she says, because “the other children were mean and continually called me names, even though we were all disabled”. “I grew up with low self-esteem, as 90% of my face is scarred. The word beauty was rare. I even tried to commit suicide on numerous occasions”, she recalls. What do you see ? takes the reader on her emotional and spiritual journey, firstly through the physical pain, and then through the pain of being rejected and ridiculed as a young girl because she was different.
personal life”, says Sekhu. Born in Makapanstad near
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