Most people would agree that all mothers – and by extension, grandmothers – already have an impossibly lengthy job description. While Ayesha Hoorzook fulfils both these roles comprehensively, she remains dedicated as a counsellor, training facilitator, educator, businesswoman and more.
Ayesha’s timeline began in Pretoria, during the heyday of the dehumanising Apartheid system. In a way that few born-frees may appreciate, she had to overcome many barriers to receive basic education. The vast distance she had to travel to get to school and back left no time for any recreational activities.
Apartheid also thwarted her early career ambitions; in order to attend a racially designated training facility in Cape Town, she would have to leave her home. Like so many young women of that era, Ayesha shelved her dreams while marriage and motherhood took centre stage, but unlike so many other young women of that era, she refused to let go of her ambitions. The opportunities denied to her during her childhood fired her passion in adulthood.
The many roles Mrs Hoorzook plays are all underpinned by solid theoretical studies and practical applications. She obtained her teacher’s qualification via a college diploma, and followed it up with further professional studies through UNISA. Her interest in academics never waned as she honed in on her field, achieving a qualification in ‘Special Needs Education’ from the University of Witwatersrand.
In addition to her professional teaching qualifications, the now 64-year old pursued advanced studies in trauma counselling, substance abuse counselling, family counselling, etc. through recognised service providers like LifeLine and SANCA. She was awarded recognition by LifeLine in 2014 for 20 years of selfless and dedicated service. A paragon of virtue and compassion, Ayesha does both telephonic and face-to-face counselling for LifeLine, and also facilitates the training of new counsellors.
To the many people who walked through the doors at Nana Memorial Centre in Brixton on a Wednesday evening, “Aunty” Ayesha is much more than a founding member and head counsellor of Al Khaleel. The drug counselling centre will soon reach its second decade of providing support to addicts in recovery, as well as their families. Ayesha is a pillar of strength in this role, holding out hope for recovering addicts during their difficult journey, and empowering families to play a supporting role. She regularly represents Al Khaleel on radio shows and other public forums, and encourages other communities to form similar support groups.
An excellent communicator and highly-skilled facilitator, Ayesha has the innate ability to put people at ease and help them empower themselves. She maintains the perfect balance, displaying patience and deep compassion when required and yet also speaks her truth plainly when it’s appropriate to do so.
Ayesha’s range of skills and expertise never fail to impress. Her passion for history led her to become a tour guide at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. The mother-of-three has facilitated workshops on the Women in Dialogue; an initiative spearheaded by the former First Lady, Zanele Mbeki. She has also enabled workshops and discussion groups dealing with issues around changing attitudes and prejudices in an attempt to break the legacy of the Apartheid era.
Despite being down-to-earth and unassuming, Ayesha has attracted attention both locally and internationally. Some of her notable achievements and accolades include:
- Representing South Africa at the Junior Chamber of Commerce International World Congress held in Miami in 1992.
- Facilitating workshops in Hong Kong as a PRIME graduate in 1994.
- Facilitation of a workshop at the University of Concordia ‘Summer School’ program in Montreal.
- Participating in a workshop on ‘Facing History and Ourselves’, run by a group based in New York.
- Serving on the youth task team at the ‘World Conference against Racism’ in 2001.
- Serving on the Forum for Democracy and Human Rights Education.
Always putting the needs of others first, Ayesha quietly finds time to ferry the elderly to hospitals and clinics. Her limited downtime is spent doing yoga, visiting the gym and doing park runs. The patience displayed and sacrifices made by her late husband and children have allowed Ayesha’s good nature to be of benefit to many people in wider communities, which she continues to serve with selfless dedication.
A saint to some, a caring maternal figure to others, and a true inspiration to us all – Ayesha Hoorzook is an exemplar of compassion and a treasured member of society. Mrs Hoorzook does her best to motivate others to find and develop their own strengths. She imparts hope to her patients and students by assuring them that their circumstances will improve, and gives them strength to maintain faith until it does.
*Special thanks to Yunnus Bismilla for his contribution and nomination of this profile.