When Mpumi Nobiva lost her dear mother to AIDS at the tender age of nine, she knew what heavy weight her feeble shoulders would be made to bear, though her heart ached, she kept faith and hoped for the best. She was left in the care of her grandmother, a domestic worker who struggled earnestly to make ends meet.
Despite the huge pressure and adversities she faced, Mpumi remained strong and fought to secure the life she envisioned. She knew how much her story would strengthen the hearts of many who face similar challenges, so she braced herself and faced life with audacity and hope; determined to tell her story whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Mpumi’s opportunity came four years later, when she was accepted to the inaugural class of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls which opened in 2007 in Johannesburg, an opportunity which eventually carved out the track upon which the African eaglet thrives today.
“Mom Oprah has taught me how to stay rooted as a person and has exposed me to so many opportunities for which I am eternally grateful,” Mpumi says. “You can imagine the impact of the girls with the insight that’s passed onto them, going out into the universe.”
She remembers how she was faced with loads of school work each day and encouraged to hone her public speaking skills. The days of hard work eventually paid off when she graduated top of her class in 2012. A feat which didn’t appear a surprise to Mpumi’s fans.
The young change maker has now proceeded to Johnson C. Smith University in west Charlotte, where she majors in interdisciplinary studies and works to actualize her creative ideas.
Prior to her academic sojourn, Mpumi (whose name means “success” in Zulu) was involved with a local non-profit social enterprise, Relate Bracelets. The group uses a simple concept to make lasting impact. The proceeds from the sale of small beaded bracelets, go towards youth and enterprise development initiatives; creating employment for more than 300 people, and to 65 South African causes.
The bracelets are strung together by seniors in Cape Town’s informal settlements, who are looking after their grandchildren and other children orphaned by HIV Aids and other circumstances. The seniors earn an income from threading long strands of beads and enjoy one another’s company.
Mpumi also has interests in politics and photography. She hopes to return to her community after her studies to create lasting change and help other girls reach their potentials.
“I could stay here in the States and be successful, make money for myself, but that would be failure,” she says. “I want to show other girls like me that you own your body, you own yourself, you own your own potential. If I can make a path for them, like one was made for me, how powerful would that be?”
Beaten but not defeated, the African princess is focused on her calling; brightening her corner and making impact.