This month’s Old Girls’ Heart to Heart is with Gemma Thompson (class of 2002) – a self-confessed, good old farmer’s daughter who has a passion for the outdoors and wildlife.
Gemma lives life to the fullest and enjoys cooking, socialising, reading, yoga, horse-riding, hiking and water colour painting, to name but a few interests! Having been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in her early twenties, Gemma had to work pretty hard at managing it, with a good diet and keeping active, and she has vowed not to let her condition hold her back from living a full and exciting life.
After leaving St John’s D.S.G. Gemma went on to study for a B.A. in Value & Policy Studies at
Stellenbosch University, which she thoroughly enjoyed. After leaving university, opportunities opened up for her to travel, further her education, and work in some exciting countries including, the Netherlands, U.S.A, Singapore and England. Having worked her way up to the top of her profession, Gemma spotted an opportunity back in South Africa, which she knew would ultimately ignite her soul’s purpose.
Gemma is now Head of Development at Good Work Foundation, a digital education non-profit organisation based in Hazyview (Mpumalanga), and oversees the communications and fundraising for the organisation. Gemma describes her work as “pretty intense” as they are fully reliant on donor funding, and in a year like 2020, that has been very difficult. However, they have been blessed with heaps of faith and incredible relationships and support. Gemma is passionate about her role and believes working every day to bring wonder-filled learning to young rural South Africans is the most rewarding experience.
It was a pleasure to catch up with this “go-getter” for this month’s Heart to Heart. Take a look at what she says:
What did you love most about St John’s D.S.G?
My soul sisters! Honestly I know everyone says this, but the friendships I formed at St John’s D.S.G. have stayed with me to this day. Even with girls who I don’t speak to or see all that often, when we do all get together, it feels like seeing family again. I also love the wholesomeness and goodness of St John’s D.S.G. and the St John’s D.S.G. girls. I am so grateful that in my time at the school I didn’t feel a pressure to look or behave in a certain way – I could just be me, no make-up, no streaks of hair dye in my hair and no fancy clothes. We all just got on with it and had fun. We seemed to focus on becoming good people on the inside, not just shiny pretty things with no substance.
What does success mean to you and how did St John’s D.S.G equip you for life after school?
Success, to me, means living a life driven by your soul’s purpose, and my soul’s purpose is giving something positive back to our beautiful country. We, St John’s D.S.G. girls, lived a predominantly privileged life and I see it as my personal responsibility to really work hard at giving back. Being on the Youth Forum and S.C.A. at school, really instilled a drive in me to keep looking outside of myself and helping others.
I’ve also learnt the importance of community and sisterhood from my time at St John’s D.S.G. and even now as an Old Girl. Seeing the school’s social media posts really is a huge highlight for me and makes me feel connected to the beautiful sisterhood that still exists.
What advice do you have for our current girls and their families?
I’m going to quote one of my favourite story-tellers for this. Shauna Niequest wrote a book called Cold Tangerines and this is an excerpt from one of those short stories. I use this as my life’s manifesto and it’s how I would encourage all the gorgeous current girls of St John’s D.S.G. to live their lives (and their families too!):
“I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact colour of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my every day to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.”