Amy Steenkamp says that going to university has not only empowered her academically, it’s also made her want to become a better person. Aiming to one day start her own NGO, it’s clear that she’s already becoming the best version of herself.
In her third year of a Bachelor of Accounting Science degree at Wits, Amy says that for her, school was mainly about friends and academics. “I really felt like I grew much more as a person when I got to Wits,” she says. “When I started first year and got the Moshal scholarship, I felt like the most important thing was to improve myself. I still feel that way. For me, it’s about bettering yourself, becoming a more holistic person and helping other people. I’ve tried doing that through my love of my schoolwork by tutoring.”
Amy has broader plans for paying it forward though. She aims to use her degree to eventually start an NGO. “I want to help people using information I’ve learnt during my degree and through the experience I hope to get by working for a large corporate. The NGO won’t be small, it will probably be virtual since we’re increasingly going towards that space. Through the organisation, I want to help people become more financially literate – to provide information and financial tools that will directly impact them.”
A means of survival
“Everyone has a dream,” says Amy. “For me, it was getting a qualification. I believe that the only way for me to survive in this world is to get a degree. But now, it’s changed. In the beginning it was all about earning the means to survive and now it’s about improving as a person and wanting to help others.”
Aside from her desire to start an NGO, Amy feels that having a business degree will enable her to empower people. “What I like about my degree is you focus on different aspects of business,” she says. “If I’m going to go out into the world, I’m not just going to be doing a job, I’ll be helping people manage their money and understand more about their finances.”
“I see myself initially working in a big company and being exposed to the different sides of the business world,” adds Amy. “I’ll be gaining the skills and finances I need to later start my NGO. I want to learn on the job.”
Amy grew up with her parents, brother and grandmother. “I come from a very loving family with a lot of support,” she says. The family moved up from Cape Town to Joburg when Amy was in grade 5. “We moved because my dad got a job here,” she says. I enjoyed school and liked both physics and life sciences and economics and accounting. I wanted to go into either field, but I thought that through business, I could help people more with practical information. Accounting is a career that can take you anywhere and allow you to deal with anybody. Whether you’re rich or poor, everyone has an interest in money and in how their finances work.”
Yet when Amy reached matric, her father lost his job and her university ambitions came under threat. “It was a difficult for me,” she says. “I felt like I should man up, so I applied for a lot of bursaries. Then I found out about Moshal. Now I’m so grateful to have the support of Moshal, res life and my family.
Through Moshal, Amy feels that she’s gained another family who provides emotional support. “I’m a person that stresses a lot and my Moshal coordinator Shanaaz knows how to handle me. She won’t tell me to push harder because she knows that I already push myself hard. She’s a motherly figure – it feels like she’s your family, she cares about you. You’re not just a statistic that Moshal’s giving money to.”
Amy also enjoys Moshal’s annual events. “The speakers always provide some kind of motivation and lesson,” she says. “Through the support and motivation provided by Moshal, I’m brought back down to earth. Knowing someone other than my family believes in me, makes me feel like I can do this thing even when I’m going through troubles.”
Keeping it real
Amy stands strong on the Moshal value of integrity. “It speaks to your honesty, a basic human value,” she says. “My degree also deals a lot with integrity as you’re working with other people’s money.” Amy is disillusioned by the corruption she sees in South Africa, especially within state entities like Eskom. “They’re supposed to be the people we’re looking up to. They all sound like they’re dodgy and they’re lying. I can’t take it if people are dishonest or not doing the right thing and hurting other people.”
Amy believes in the power of dreams. “Tupac Shakur says: “Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real.” That inspires me.”
Putting dreams into perspective, Amy says: “I’ve learnt that stressing about the future is pointless because you only have now. So, dream but don’t forget about what you’re doing right now, that’s actually helping you to fulfil your dream.”