(Editor’s note: Dr. Mpume Zondi, ­another South African woman, lived at Emmaus House — Albany’s Catholic Worker house — in 2002-03 while taking courses and teaching classes at The University at Albany. After she returned home, the Catholic Workers paid for the education of some children in her village, KwaNdebeqheke. One of those young people was Ms. Thango, who shares her story.)

Everything has a beginning, right? In addition, anything is possible as long as one is determined to achieve one’s goals in life.

This is my story of success, which has seen me graduating with honors a few weeks ago in KwaNdebeqheke, South Africa, with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

My parents had a dream for me: that I should become a light to the family. However, they had many challenges. By God’s providence, Emmaus House Catholic Worker community in Albany provided financial support through the KwaNdebeqheke Education Program. They sponsored part of my primary and high school education.

This support, coupled with continuous encouragement from my parents and “Aunt Mpume,”  who identified me for this project, aided me to be where I am today.

I have no words to thank you all. I know that my education journey was not a smooth one. University was not easy, either, as I discovered that I had to do subjects I had no clue about. Having to repeat modules twice and sometimes three times even after putting up so much hard work has made me stronger, and I can reciprocate by encouraging others who find themselves in a similar situation.

This is why I took six years to do a four-year degree. However, I do not regret it. In particular, Aunt Mpume always had the right words to say and believed in me even when I began to think I was a failure. She would also convey messages of support from the Emmaus House family, who continued to assist me even when I thought they would give up on me.

In my African culture, the hospitality attitude of the Emmaus House family is “Ubuntu” at its best: assisting someone — in my case, a stranger — without expecting anything in return. That was what I was to them: a stranger, until 2011 when I met them during their visit in South Africa.

We are aware that Fred Boehrer of the Catholic Worker community is not doing very well health-wise, and we continue praying for him and wish him a speedy recovery. I thank Fred Boehrer and Diana Conroy’s children, Freddie, Helen and Carol, for allowing us in their lives.

My second name being “Gratitude,” I want to express my gratitude to Emmaus House in particular. Only God knows how thankful I am. You and all the people who believed in me kept me moving. May God bless you all and keep you in His love.