At the young age of 28, Thendo Dzumba has established herself as highly sought-after occupational therapist whose services speak volumes of excellence, extra-care and love. She works for the Department of Health and she also has a growing practice for private clients.

“Occupational Therapy is a profession that helps people with physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities become as independent as possible in all areas of their lives. It helps people to overcome a disability, illness or some other condition that may be cumbersome to them,” Thendo explains.

She believes it is a heart-warming profession because one works closely with patients, watching them overcome obstacles to achieve independence and well-being. “The profession aims to help people attain functional independency in all activities of their daily lives and to help them compensate or adapt if they experience any physical limitations,” Thendo adds.

Most people are not aware of the profession and so they do not utilise the services of an occupational therapist. However, Thendo says that occupational therapists are found in public and private hospitals, schools, early childhood development centres, mining companies, insurance companies, accessibility consultants, and even law firms.

Thendo notes: “In many public hospitals, although not in primary health care facilities, many patients do have access to an occupational therapist but they may not be aware of the services on offer. They generally believe that an occupational therapist is a doctor.”

Thendo believes that there should be more collaboration and information-sharing between healthcare providers and their patients to create awareness about occupational therapy and the potential benefits it affords to people who are suffering from a physical, sensory or cognitive disability.

Thendo now resides in Ha-Mulima village, Limpopo, but during her younger years, she moved around a lot. She attended Thonzwe Primary School and then Manko Higher Primary School. After that she went to high school at Happy Day Combined School in Polokwane and then completed her last years of secondary schooling at St Brendan’s Catholic School in Botlokwa. This meant that she experienced a wide diversity both socially and culturally.

She was drawn to the world of health as she says that she had a keen interest in people and helping them. But it wasn’t a straight line from school to the medical campus, it took Thendo a year of reflection, careful planning and restructuring to get ready for her studies. She was admitted to the University of Limpopo Medunsa campus to study occupational therapy in 2009 and she completed her honours degree in 2014.

It was not an easy road to travel: her studies required a great deal of undivided attention, responsibility, hard work, independence and self-discipline. Thendo reflects: “There were a lot of bumps on the road but the enthusiasm in me to become something became the driving force motivating me to achieve my goals of helping people.”

Today, she is part of an initiative by medical professionals called the Limpopo Pain Clinic. She enjoys learning on a continuous basis and growing in her ability to meet the needs of her patients.

She urges the youth in different communities to get onto their feet and get up and doing. “Do not let failure today define your future, and do not let where you come from define where you are going. We need self-discipline to achieve most of the luxuries which we get to enjoy in life. So, work harder. If you set your mind on an idea, see to it that you get to actualise it. Make sure you become hungry for that dream you have. We are young and we have made it!”

She adds that many young people get discouraged on the path to success. She adds: “You ask, ‘How did we do it?’ It was self-discipline and the hunger to reach for my goals. Do not refuse mentorship from someone who has gone through the ordeal. Sometimes experience is the best teacher.”

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