*Hi, I’m Cathy. I’m a champion on the U-turn phase 3 work-readiness programme. My passion is communication and I’m part of the U-turn communication team. Every week I will be writing a blog post sharing my personal experience on this programme, to give you a window into the experience of being a champion on the U-turn programme.

After grade 12, I studied Information Technology at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (back then it was called Cape Technikon).  I failed that year and could not repeat the course. I wanted to be a COBOL programmer. 

My mum didn’t understand coding and development, so we compromised and settled on a secretarial course and my programming dreams ended, or nearly ended… While in the psychiatric ward, I started drafting an idea for a mobile phone application.

Later, during my stay at my local municipality’s COVID temporary shelter for the homeless, I researched which programming language to use to build the mobile phone application. I first started to learn Python, and then switched to Java. During that time I built the application using a free-trial app builder on my mobile phone, to reach a self-imposed deadline I’d set for myself. In the end, I had to stop learning Java because it used up too much of my mobile data, something which was a rare commodity while stuck in survival mode.

While at the shelter, I also participated in the Global Startup Ecosystem, an international digital accelerator programme. I learned about NanoTechnology, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Blockchain. I was also selected as a semi-finalist for the African region and was able to do all of this, despite limited data.

On training day it is always a joy to learn new things in the Information Technology class. We are currently using an E-learning platform called Skill Wise, designed by Professor Rob Wylde. We learn about the different Microsoft Office Suites, Information Technology and much more.

I felt like a child in a toy shop, when I discovered a coding module in my U-turn Growth stage syllabus. It excited me that U-turn is giving champions the tools to explore coding, particularly when you consider a person that might have lived more than a decade on the streets going through these different phases at U-turn. When they get to the Phase 3 work-readiness programme, they complete their Induction Stage and once ready, they move over to the Growth Stage where they learn more about computer Microsoft Office Suites, as well as improving their typing skills right through to learning to code. 

The possibilities are endless as U-turn is preparing us for the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR). 

My journey with coding has taught me that nothing is final…Doors of opportunities will open. I thank God for U-turn that is creating a safe environment for me and other champions to grow to our full potential. Just like U-turn, I believe that there is life after homelessness, not only for me but for the other champions too.