Written by Josephine Bestic
In 2011 a shy Grade 7 Makuleke boy named Destiny Wisani Hlungwani attended a Children in the Wilderness (CITW) Eco-Camp at nearby Pafuri in the far north of the Kruger National Park.
We might call his initial experiences an epiphany, or life-changing, but Destiny calls it an ‘energy day’. Along with the other children on camp, he wrote down his dream profession and squirrelled it into a ‘dream catcher’ to be handed back at the end of camp.
The word he had written was ‘pilot’, and he still has the wrinkled slip of paper he wrote it on. His dream grew however, once he started spending time in his weekly Eco-Clubs, and appreciated the enormity of the environmental responsibility we all have. Not content with his once-a-week Eco-Club meetings, Destiny joined a group called The Superkids to Save the Environment, who spent their Thursday afternoons spreading the message of environmental awareness throughout his village.
In 2017 Destiny graduated high school with six distinctions, and enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand to study aeronautical engineering. Now in his second year, after receiving a distinction for maths in his first year and receiving a full bursary from the Civil Aviation Authority, he is even more passionate about flying.
At the recent Nedbank Tour de Tuli route launch in Johannesburg Destiny spoke to the riders about his life-changing experiences with CITW – in his personal life as well as the difference he and the Superkids were able to make around Makuleke. At the launch he met Mike White, CITW SA board member, avid Tour supporter, CITW benefactor – and private aircraft owner.
On 18th August 2019, CITW Regional Programme Manager Janet Wilkinson organised a mini flight with Mike for Destiny to have an experience of flying a light aircraft.
Destiny picks up the story. “I got to learn so much – from the pre-flight inspection to all the complexities of flying an aircraft. I was very nervous at first, as it was my first private plane flight, but it was really exciting and motivating. After my degree, I will definitely get my Private Pilot’s Licence, to be able to fly, and also give others the experience I had on this unforgettable day. I’d like to thank Janet and Mike so so much for the experience… no words can express how grateful I am to them, as they did this at their personal expense. When we were finally in the air, Mike gave me the controls to his Cessna. The feeling was super amazing, as I never thought in my life I would get to fly an airplane. I was just a village boy – who got the opportunity of a lifetime”.
Destiny, and young CITW people like him, represent the future of Africa’s future leaders, and we are very lucky to know them.