I don’t think you understand how incredible you are. You come from hardship and sorrow, yet you know what joy is; you strive for it. Somewhere deep inside of you, you wait, weaving your plans together with calculated patience until the moment comes right. When it does come, pounce on it, with both eyes set on claiming your throne that you’ve worked so tirelessly to achieve. Don’t hold back your dazzle because of some imagined fear that has immobilised you for so long. You are majestic and undoubtedly powerful and the struggles you’ve overcome should only prove this.
Nompumelelo Nobiva experienced what pain and loss felt like when she lost her mother to AIDS when she was just 9 years old. With her grandmother, as her supporter and anchor, she strove on when opportunity presented itself through education. She became one the young ladies who were selected to attend the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. She didn’t waste the opportunity and simply soared. Ten years later, she’s well on her way to completing her Master’s Degree in Strategic Communications at High Point University in the United States of America.
I spent P-hive Minutes with Nompumelelo Noviba; an inspirational young woman who takes pride in sharing her story and her success and empowers those who seem at a loss; to learn, love and redeem themselves through their purpose.
Describe your experience as one of the girls that were chosen to be a learner at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls?
The experience of being part of the school was life-altering and just to have had that level of opportunity was amazing. When we arrived at the academy, we were addressed as leaders and were presented with opportunities throughout our time there. It was beautiful to grow as a woman, a leader and as a sister with all the other girls. I excelled academically. Before I joined the academy, I was a well-rounded student but when I graduated I became academically strong.
Have you and Oprah sat down and just talked over a cup of tea? How is your relationship with her?
Oprah, the girls and I spent time together at least over ten times. She’s a person who really cares, so whenever she came to the academy she made time for us. We talked about everything; from life to boys, school and leadership, empowerment and work. She’s inspirational and allows us to be ourselves. With her, each time spent with her gets better. I’ve had a tremendous time getting to know her. It’s a personal and private relationship she has with the girls. She shares her time with all of us.
How would you describe yourself and your life before you became a learner at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls? Would you say your life has transitioned since then?
I’ve always been ambitious and optimistic about life but opportunity wasn’t as accessible as it was when I was at the academy. We were allowed to try different things, to travel and listen to different speakers deliver talks. Becoming a part of the school brought out what was already there, we just needed a form of support, structure and it cushioned us. I loved being in that space because I was able to heal through different things and grow as a young woman. We were required to stretch and push across boundaries, to challenge ourselves and to interpret failure as not a mistake but as a way of learning and moving forward in life. We had the best of everything and we made the best of it. It was a purely transformational phase.
You launched an international empowerment campaign titled “Share Your Story, Inspiring Courage”; how did this idea come about and how long has it been running?
I launched the campaign in June last year, when I was working in Cape Town as an ambassador for an organisation called Relate Bracelets. They support over 65 causes including; malaria, cancer and AIDS. It was an honour to be part their organisation because they have a transparent business model that empowers the people who are part of it as a third of what they make goes into their pockets from the bracelets they make. The campaign is not about AIDS, that’s just my story. There are so many other stories that should be told for the better good, in celebratory spirit, to teach and build compassion in society.
Who do you aim to empower with this campaign and what change do you want to encourage in others?
I want to inspire and empower everyone. I don’t want to be boxed or limited as to why I share and to whom I share my story with. I had orphans in mind, particularly orphans from UNAIDS. I share my story so that they know that they’re not defined by their circumstances. I also have women in mind because they have been marginalised for all of human civilisation. We have been at the bottom of the barrel to some or other extent. Everything I do is geared mainly towards women, children and orphans on the notion of empowerment and social engagement. It has no barrier; it speaks to all people who have a desire to be great.
What has the loss of your mother taught you about yourself? Do you think you’d be a different person if she was alive?
Losing my mother taught me that I’m absolutely strong and there really is no loss. I feel really close to my mother even though I never got to know her. I know her through the people who know her. I wouldn’t change the course of my life because I’m stronger and I’m not afraid of loss in any capacity, which means I’m not afraid of risks. I realised that my story, my truth, is really my currency in this world, it’s what I trade on. It’s been a joy to know that she can be a part of the narrative. My grandmother took care of me; she has never wavered in her care for me. She has always remained rooted and strong and it’s something I’ve always appreciated about her.
Is there anything you miss and wished you had from South Africa when you’re in the US?
I miss the food, absolutely! The food here is amazing. Most of the time I feel like the food in America is oversaturated, a lot more preserved and it’s tempered with. Home has a lot of organic food. Food is where the heart is and my grandmother’s cooking is probably the best thing I’ve ever encountered in my life. On days when I feel down, I know that a home cooked meal will really pick me up.
How long will your Masters Degree take to complete? Will you then move back to SA?
The traditional programme is 15 months but I was told I would accelerate it and complete it in a year because I want to come back to South Africa to work and do what I believe I’m here to do. I don’t plan to come back and just settle. I want to establish My Public Relations company and still travel and do business across the globe and continue on the relationships I’ve been fortunate to have in the United States.
Outside of your studies; what do you do to relax and spend time with friends?
I love music; I listen to Black Coffee’s music all the time. I’m also building my website, so I do a lot of photo shoots and I also design on WordPress. It never really feels like spare time because everything I do is work, it’s all integrated. And then there’s sleep; I love sleep, I sleep whenever I can.
As a motivational speaker and a strategist, what is art to you?
The expression of art is when an audience member gets it or when a child reaches out and says they are inspired. It’s my voice in the air and the space is the canvas and I fill it with my presence with what I choose to share and how I choose to share it.
Decide the kind of life you want to lead and follow your heart. Follow your instinct with all your might and do not to be discouraged – your journey will not be easy. When you’ve prepared for your moment and done all that you can, look around and see what is to come. All that you do comes back to you, so imagine it to be everything you want it to be.
Written by Sithembiso Promise Xaba
What do you think of Mpumi’s story? Do you believe you can be anything you put your mind to even when you’re faced with adversity? Let us know in the comments section.