When Worcester’s Dr Danille Arendse was asked to use her own story to help inspire a local rural community, she decided that this is not enough. Instead, the Psychologist and Military Major decided that she would ask some of her closest friends to also share their stories, the result of which is the booklet, ‘Dala Wat Jy Moet’.
The Afrikaans language booklet features “16 inspirerende verhale deur bruin mense” (16 inspirational stories by brown people). These stories include that of award winning writer and academic, Professor Rozena Maart (born in District Six and persevered despite the cruelty of apartheid) and veterinarian, Dr Ayoub Banderker (who pursued his passion for helping our four legged friends to become one of South Africa’s first Vets of colour).
Of course, in addition to featuring other remarkable ‘bruin mense’ like her husband, Kyle Bester (Psychologist, PhD Candidate and editor of the booklet), it also features the story of Dr/Major Danielle Arendse. Now, the one thing you should know about Danille is that she has had to face a stressful, backbreaking uphill battle to get a university education. In fact, when we talk about what it is to ‘dala wat jy moet’, we are talking about someone like Dr Danille Arendse, so let’s take a look at her story.
Before we begin, for those of you that do not know what the word, ‘dala’, means, here is the fancy version: to perform an action to get a result or to have an intention to perform the action to get that result. To ‘dala’ what you must is to ‘do’ what you must. For example, to get your degree, you have to ‘dala’ what you must. You would, for example, have to find a job and risk getting robbed (or worse) on your way home after a long day of classes.
As noted, 33 year old Danille’s life is emblematic of what it means to ‘dala what you must’ because, well, she had to dala what she had to. Having already decided in grade 8 that she would become a psychologist, like any future success, she put in the work and sacrifice to excel in school. However, after her mom and dad divorced, money was tight which made Danille feel that she had to dala what she had to help out.
During the last three years of high school, she was one of the breadwinners, getting weekend work so that she could help out her mom and sister. She did not complain however, seeing only the positive. She was gaining life experience and contributing to the family. When she finally matriculated and was accepted to the University of the Western Cape, money was still tight. Her family could not pay for her studies and accommodation (in Cape Town) so Danille dala’d what she had to.
Because of her impressive matric results, she applied for and got a merit bursary. This bursary did not however cover everything but it did make it possible for her dad to cover the cost of her registration fees. After registering, she also applied and secured a NSFAS study loan. She knew that part of her loan would be turned bursary if she passed all of her modules. She worked extra hard to maintain her impressive results and obviously, she passed all of her modules. Thankfully, she managed to find accommodation at the home of a family member in Cape Town.
After dalaing what she had to, she could focus on her first year of studies without having to worry too much about money. However, by the end of the year, money became tight again and Danielle once again dala’d what she had to.
At the end of her first year, while other young people enjoyed their holiday, Danille found a job and started saving up. When her second year of studies began, she found jobs on university as a mentor, administrative assistant, tutor and research assistant. Danille never spent money on anything that she did not need but despite all of her efforts, finding enough money to pay for her basic needs was always a struggle. There were too many mornings and evenings when she did not even know how she would get to campus and back home. Sometimes she would just get into the taxi, hoping that the ‘guardtjie’ (the guy who collects the taxi money from the passengers) would understand when he realised that she was short (thankfully, Cape Town has a lot of kind hearted taxi drivers and guardtjies). Some evenings, she had no choice but to just walk home despite the dangers that awaited her around every dark corner, especially during the winter months.
Yes, Danille had it tough. She was stressed out about money, her free time was spent working and she had too, quite often, risk her safety to get her degree. She also had to maintain very high grades to make sure that her NSFAS loan gets turned into a bursary and more importantly, make sure that she gets into the Psychology Masters programme. In order to be considered for the Masters programme, she’d have to be one of the top 10 performing students. Given how tough the Psychology course was and how stressed out Danille was, it must have seemed like an impossible goal. Yes, Danille had it tough and yes, we would have understood if she didn’t make it, except that she ended up doing the following…
She was awarded faculty certificates of merit, became a member of the Golden Key International Honours Society, became a recipient of a National Research Foundation bursary to complete her third year; honours and Masters degrees, got into the Masters Programme, completed her Masters, passed her Psychology Board Exam with 98%, received an internship at the South African Defence Force’s Military Psychological Institute, was promoted to fulltime as a military research psychologist, received military training (she can take you down if she has to), was promoted to the rank of Major under the South African Medical Health Services division, was elected chairperson for the Officers Forum at the Military Psychological Institute, received a PhD Scholarship from the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, completed a PhD in Psychology at the University of Pretoria, completed more than 30 additional courses, presented more than 20 papers both locally and abroad at various academic conferences (her last presentation was called, ‘Barriers to Belonging: Reflecting on my identity as a ‘Coloured’ woman in Post-Apartheid South Africa’), published several papers in internationally recognised peer reviewed academic journals (which include psychological and military journals), has several papers that is still waiting to get published, received a Feminism & Postgraduate Award from Leeds Beckker University’s, and of course, compiled the book; ‘Dala Wat Jy Moet’. That is of course, quite a mouthful, but not quite the end.
Being someone that understood what it is like to struggle financially, she never passed up an opportunity to help out where she could. During her time at university, she was part of the Student Mentoring Programme (where she was awarded a certificate for outstanding mentoring), volunteered as a trauma counsellor at the Kolping Society of South Africa and she helped found the Gender Equity Unit Food Programme at the University of the Western Cape (she was in charge of Public Relations and Marketing). The programme aimed to provide food to students that were ‘struggling financially’ and has thus far, provided assistance to thousands of students. Currently, she is a Psychology Mentor at the Psychological Society of South Africa’s National Mentoring Programme and of course, she compiled a booklet that aims to empower brown communities.
Now, at the beginning we wrote that Danille compiled the booklet because she knows what it is like to dala what you must. Of course, her ultimate goal is to provide motivation for kids who are going to have to dala what they have to, especially during those times when they desperately want to give up. You see, Danille might be tough but she is not made up stone. She is a person who had to endure the kind of hardships that made her want to give up, go home to Worcester and just feel safe with her family. A fiercely independent person who did not like to burden anyone with her problems, she often found a spot where no one would hear her and the tears would flow. She was only human, on the verge of breaking but she did not. She knew that this was her one shot to achieve her goals and she was not going to let it slip through her fingers. Of course, no woman is an island and Danille insists on making sure that everyone knows that she did not succeed on her own. She wants kids to know that there is no shame in asking for help when you really need it. She is abundantly grateful for all the people that helped her along her path to success.
Someday, we might live in a perfect world, where kids who are willing to put in the work and sacrifice, can do so without having to worry about how they are going to pay for things. For now however, we need people like Danille, people who can tell us that regardless of our circumstances, anything is possible and the sky is the limit. The road to success is never an easy journey but when we feel a little despondent, always remember, there is a Psychologist, PhD and Military Major by the name of Danille Arendse, who had it tough but regardless of whether things seemed impossible, she dala’d what she had to.