Awards/2015 Award Winners

Above: Colonel Rama Iyer, South African Air Force Director of Basic Flying Training (left) and Gift Kgadima (right), member of the Aero Club of SA's Transformation and Development team at the SSSA Touring Motor Glider FlyInn held in Brits in 2015. Image source: PilotsPost. SSSA Touring Motor Glider Fly Inn Brits 2015.

 Gift Kgadima 

Gift Kgadima is a product of the Aero Club of South Africa’s Transformation and Development division and was one of WOA’s first Award Winners. He demonstrates the leadership we hope to see in all our team. 

Gift demonstrated his early leadership skills at the Cornerstone College, Silverton, Pretoria  where he learned to fly drones. He is a talented RC pilot and participated in the national Fun Fly Masters in 2009 (5th place in Sportsman's Class) and 2010 (3rd place in Sportsman's Class.

Gift has been given responsibility for some of the Aero Club’s activities, and was responsible for the 2017 collaboration with CSIR in organising the Wind Tunnel Tour. AASA sponsored his attendance at their Annual General Assembly in 2017. 

Gift's commitment to making a difference in Africa's fight against wildlife poaching, led to him flying drones for Air Shepherd, an organization supported by the Lindbergh Foundation, that uses drones to protect elephants in Africa.

Gift is also a 2016 Schenk Family Award Winner, was elected Secretary of WOA in 2017, and has been awarded a bursary by WOA to help him pursue his pilot training. 

(in his own words)

"Aviation is where my heart lies. The only thing which I picture myself doing is flying aerobatics. I have been aspiring to be a pilot since I was in Grade 7, and the love grew even more as I started high school.

I was exposed to aviation at the age of 15. I started by flying model aircraft and participated in several national competitions over the past years. In 2008, I was recognised as a promising aviator and was awarded a full scholarship from the South African Model Aircraft Association (SAMAA) to obtain a Glider Pilot License. I have had the privilege of flying gliders ever since, it has been a life-changing experience, and I hope to continue my chose career path. I have obtained a Gliding License and a Touring Motor Gliding License, which I worked towards over the past couple of years.

Over the past year I managed to obtain my Remote Pilot License (RPL) and have been working as a drone pilot in conservation (for anti-poaching operations) in various National Parks in South Africa, and I am really enjoying the experience. Whilst working I have been saving up to complete my Commercial Pilot License (CPL). My ultimate goal and dream is to fly and compete in a Red Bull Air Race. I’m hopeful that I will work for an airline one day, and then be able to fund my aerobatic career.

Outreach Work

From 2013 to 2015, I worked at my former high school as a part-time model flying instructor. Model aeroplanes was where it all began for me, and I was thankful to be given the opportunity to give back and train high school kids how to fly model aircraft. During that time, I was responsible for the model flying training, packing the bus once a week so we could go to the flying site, and I also organised and managed outings and field trips. This was normally a group of 25 keen aviators, which I engaged with on a weekly basis. One of my former students is today training towards his Private Pilot's License (PPL).

I was also a member of the Aero Club of SA's Transformation and Development team where I was a project manager for a few events. I work with my fellow aviators at a lot of airshows where we conduct delta dart building sessions, such as the annual Girl Fly Programme in Africa Aviation and Aerospace camps, where we assisted and inspired a lot of young aviators. There was also a handful of events, which we attended, various fly-ins within the country and I had the privilege of flying a lot of school children in a real aircraft. I cherish those moments as some of these young pupils had never been in an airplane, and to be the one who made that possible for them is very close to my heart.

Due to my workload over the past year I have not been involved in transportation, transformation and giving back, which is killing me inside, it gives me great joy to give back, as I've always done outreach work. Transportation is close to my heart, and I understand all the struggles and challenges of being in a society where aviation seems like a far-fetched dream. I've been transformed, and because certain individuals believed in me, I've been working towards my goals. Therefore, I want to use what I have to make the dreams of other individuals, like me, become a reality." 


 Orifha Mbedzi 

Orifha Mbedzi is a great example of the power of WOA. His dream was to become a pilot and Don Schenk mentored him as best he could from 13,000 miles away. 

At the end of his matric year, Orifha and Don discussed his options, one of which was to attend the University of Pretoria and study computer science or set university aside and try to find a way to become a pilot. They decided that he was being given a wonderful opportunity to attend this university, where he started last year. He has done so well that he has been invited to teach a first year computer course. 

Orifha is an existing WOA mentor, and has offered to provide a leadership development course in computers to WOA.


 Thenyisa Krishna 

Thenysia Krishna was born in Durban and spent most of her life in Benoni Johannesburg. She attended Boksburg High School from which she matriculated in 2009 with a distinction in Travel and Tourism. Ms. Krishna graduated from Standford Business and Computer Design College in Durban in 2013. She also received her cabin crew licence at Skyy Aviation in May 2013, after which she was accepted on a Learnership at CDK Learning Academy

Thenysia’s professional career at Comair Limited began with acceptance by Comair Limited to complete a Workplace Experiential Learning assignment. In 2014, she was offered full-time employment as a Customer Services Agent. In 2015 she was appointed the Ground Staff Uniform Ambassador, and in 2016 she was promoted to a flight attendant position domiciled in Cape Town, which was her dream.


 Frans Monakisi  (in his own words)

Frans Monakisi grew up in Mamelodi dreaming of becoming a pilot. However, he has been unable to obtain the funds to begin training. Don Schenk has spent a lot of time mentoring him on what he should do and what he should know in order to make an informed decision. In the mean time he has continued to develop his skills as a poet, attend outreach events where he provides inspirational talks, and mentor award winners.

"I am 22 years old and have grown up in a township called Mamelodi in Pretoria, South Africa. I'm a poet, writer, motivational speaker, and author, and someone who hopes to become a commercial pilot. I combine my many passions in the motivational speeches I give to the formerly disadvantaged who live in Pretoria. I'm the second of three siblings, and I come from a previously disadvantaged background.

I have always been a dreamer and began writing poetry and short stories in second grade. It was my escape from everything I faced as a child, who was bullied for being fat and different from the other children in Mamelodi. In grade eight, I was selected to be in a program called the US State Department's English Access Microscholarship Program* which enlivened my writing skills and improved my English. I also worked on its magazine called Mzansi Journal Magazine where I met Sam Gibb who was my editor. She believed in my writing and pushed me hard. It was during this period that another mentor, the author of Being Positive in a Negative World, Sy Tshabalala, inspired me and made it possible to publish my first book of poetry, Poet in Me, which is my journey of love, self-discovery and awakening. I am using the profits from the sale of this book to help pay for my flying lessons. Need language for how people can purchase this book.

I am inspired by both the beauty of words and the magic of aviation since I was six years old and my time as a 2014 Award Winner provided me an amazing overview of the complexity and beauty of aviation. That experience has enabled me to tell others about my dreams of combining a commercial airplane pilot career with poetry. I am in the process of applying to law schools and engineering schools, delivering motivational speeches, and mentoring a 2016 Wonders of Aviation Award Winner, who is currently serving in the South African Air Force."  

South Africa: The US State Department's English Access Microscholarship Program
United States Embassy (Pretoria). 3 June 2014. Press release. 

The US State Department's English Access Microscholarship Program, introduced in 2007 in South Africa, offers two years of after-school English language study to underprivileged high school students, this program is administered by the Regional English Language Office in Pretoria. In 2014, for our sixth opening ceremony, 40 students from programs in Ponelopele Oracle Secondary School, Ivory Park and Diepsloot Combined Secondary School, Diepsloot (both schools are in Gauteng, Johannesburg) received the Certificate of Award from the Counselor of Public Affairs as a symbol of encouraging commitment for this two-year long program, the 40 students were also joined by senior Access students in their second year of the program for motivation by reciting poems and the performance of a play based on "Memorial Day and Day of Reconciliation."  Source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201406040554.html

* The English Access Microscholarship Program (Access) provides a foundation of English language skills to talented 13-20 year-olds from economically disadvantaged sectors through after-school classes and intensive sessions. Access gives participants English skills that may lead to better jobs and educational prospects. Participants also gain the ability to compete for and participate in future exchanges and study in the United States. Since its inception in 2004, approximately 95,000 students in more than 85 countries have participated in the Access Program. More information about the US Embassy of South Africa's Scholarships and Exchanges.