Michele’s emotional testimony about her relationship with Senior is a beautiful reminder of the deep bonds that can form between colleagues who work together for a common cause. In her words, we see a story of two women who have shared many challenges and triumphs, and who have formed a lasting friendship based on mutual respect, trust, and loyalty.

The two women met about 20 years ago when Michele owned a restaurant in Hoedspruit and was looking for a chef to help her out. Senior, who was not a trained chef, was hired and worked alongside Michele to build the restaurant into a thriving business. During this time, Michele trained Senior in the art of cooking, and the two women became good friends as they worked side by side.

When the restaurant was eventually sold, Michele faced a difficult decision about what to do with her staff. She felt it would be unethical to take the best workers with her, so she decided to leave Senior behind. Despite this, the two women remained in regular contact, and their friendship continued to grow over the years.

When Michele founded DAKTARI, Senior was one of the first employees she hired. Although the project faced many challenges, including financial struggles and the lack of electricity, Michele and Senior persevered, working together to build the center into the success it is today. Over the years, Michele came to see Senior not just as an employee, but as a member of her family. “She’s one of the persons that I know for the longest here since I arrived in South Africa, she is part of my family because of the challenges we went through together”

However, Senior’s health eventually began to decline, and she was forced to take time off work. Michele did everything in her power to support her friend and keep her job, but it became clear that Senior needed to leave DAKTARI for medical reasons. Despite their shared reluctance to part ways, Michele ultimately had to make the difficult decision to retrench Senior. “Because she didn’t want to disappoint me, she would come to work, but I could see her suffering and it was just not right for me to just see her battling with work”.

The parting was a deeply emotional one for both women, as they had shared so many memories and overcome so many challenges together. Michele contacted the Department of Labor and helped senior to seek grants for support. She also promised her that she would always be there for her, and that she could still come back to visit the center and her DAKTARI family whenever she wanted. In this promise, we see the depth of Michele’s love and loyalty to her friend, and the power of their shared experiences to build lasting bonds of friendship.

Michele’s testimony about Senior is a beautiful example of the profound impact that colleagues can have on one another’s lives. Through their hard work, dedication, and shared struggles, the two women built a friendship that transcends mere employment, and that will endure long after Senior has left DAKTARI. In this sense, Michele’s words are a reminder that, in the end, it is the relationships we build with others that truly matter in life.

DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage
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