Making it happen and mastering side-projects

A quality that many of the people at Virgin share is their ability to 'make it happen' outside of their day jobs, with many starting up side projects such as small businesses or charitable foundations. Ulenda Dhlamini of Virgin Atlantic is a perfect example of this and we were lucky enough to spend a little time in her company, hearing how she’s made it happen...

So Ulenda, let’s start with life at Virgin - how do you find it?

Ulenda: So my current role is Office Assistant and PA to our Country Manager, Liezl Gericke. Working at Virgin has opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities, from the moment I set my feet here. There was a rigorous selection process but I eventually made the cut.

Outside of work, how do you spend your time and what are your passions?

I enjoy reading, going out to book clubs and I’m passionate about giving back to the community. Social entrepreneurship is the bane of my existence.

Can you tell us a little more about the Angel-Heart Foundation and how it all came about?

Angel-Heart Foundation is a registered non-profit organisation in Tembisa, SA that provides at-risk, school-going, girls with free sanitary towels from disadvantaged social and economic backgrounds in their puberty. The organisation seeks to reduce absenteeism from school due to lack of sanitary towels and provide puberty education for the girls. It is estimated that some girls miss in excess of 15 per cent of their school year due to lack of sanitary towels. Usually when a girl child has no food at home, it goes without saying that they would not necessarily have pads.

The Angel-Heart Foundation on its recent exchange program in Kigali, Rwanda. Yvonne Krywyj (front left) is the Head of Business, Operations of Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) Rwanda. Ulenda Dhlamini (front right) is Founder & Director of Angel-Heart.

The most amazing, or rather puzzling, fact is that the government can afford to make condoms (a matter of choice) freely available, yet it cannot do the same with a thing as important as sanitary towels. Equally, in Rwanda 18 per cent of girls and women miss out on school and work because they could not afford to buy menstrual pads.

Having been through the same situation myself, before being employed I asked myself how were these school-going girls from disadvantaged backgrounds coping? It was a burning question I was willing to go find an answer for and that’s how Angel-Heart Foundation was born.

Do you find it difficult to find the time to work a full-time job, run a NPO and have a social life?

It’s a labour of love. Work keeps me on my toes from 8am to 4pm and when I get home I get to deal with the socio-economic realities of these innocent souls. I have learnt to find a symbiotic balance, if ever there was such a phrase.

What tips do you have for someone trying to bring a project to life, whilst working a full-time job?

Go for it, you’ll never know until you try. Most importantly follow your passion, do your research and keep a diary (time management is everything!). If it is something that’s burning inside of you, it will always find a way to manifest. Be patient and learn to give time, its own time!

Tell us one thing you’ve learnt whilst working at Virgin and one thing you’ve learnt through the Angel-Heart Foundation.

Virgin - I honestly believe that most of us wouldn’t be here if one man didn’t take the necessary risks of creating the Virgin brand as we know it today, in short I’ve learnt to have an attitude that says "screw it, let’s do it" like the title from one of Sir Richard’s book.

Angel-Heart Foundation - I’ve learnt we all have something to give, money - not always, time or even something as small as a smile to make a difference in someone else’s life. Ultimately, we are a sum-total of our choices and how we give off ourselves.


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