Anthea Rossouw - Founder
CHANGING LANES TO WALK THE TALK TO ALLEVIATE POVERTY, GROW DIGNITY AND PUT AN END TO AID WITHOUT END.
The Dreamcatcher (Anthea Rossouw) is recognized as a world leader in the field of poverty alleviation through sustainable and sensible development: placing special emphasis on how community based tourism and its knock on effect can bring lasting dignity to depressed communities across a land.
Working as a volunteer in historically and economically disadvantaged communities for over two decades, Anthea continues to volunteer and is the recipient of the prestigious Millennium Award, South African Woman for Women, bestowed upon her in Toronto Canada. Recently also receiving the TIAW World of Difference 100 Award from the Global Partnership Forum. The World Travel & Tourism Council in the United Kingdom has also recognized Dreamcatcher, founded by Anthea Rossouw, as one of the top 3 Organisations in the world in the category "Investment in People". Dreamcatcher has also been joint winner of the prestigious Proudly South African Award (Western Cape province) and has inspired award-winning films such as Motherland.
"It's always been a personal choice to make a difference, be creative and get things promised, done. I could have had and been anything but a volunteer alleviating poverty and bringing lasting dignity to others. Being catapulted into celeb status as a beauty queen, a sportswoman or a fashion designer, somehow did not do it for me. Being on the edge and seeing what it entailed, and done it, it was a personal and conscious choice to remain with my feet on the ground: to keep the common touch, so precious to knowing who you are and stand for ultimately. In terms of this: I know what helped change my heart to making the maximum difference for the betterment of others dignity - to truly know YES, I have LIVED! And others have because of this. In this lies a richness of the soul, impossible to buy." Dreamcatcher Foundation Founder, Anthea Rossouw.
So what makes "The Dreamcatcher" (Dreamcatcher Foundation Founder Anthea Rossouw) tick?
- Grassroots relationships
- Getting things done
- Walking the talking to put an end to poverty
- Dedicated and committed to making Nelson Mandela's dream of 'a better life for all,' WORK!
Born with the capacity to head onto a great future, Anthea Rossouw was raised in a very balanced home where her mother chose to work from home (as fashion designer to the rich and famous ostrich barrons' wives, in fine feathery). As the middle child of five, with a father of Anglo-Saxon heritage and a mother of Swedish-Dutch heritage, she was always encouraged to explore, read, study and be the best she (and her siblings) could be and capable of becoming: to believe in herself and in the good in others from all cultures. Raised with a strongly instilled sense of fairness and ethics, of loyalty to one's values and traditions, yet always sensitive and appreciative of others.
She spent her first few years in the Eastern Cape province ("Mandela's country", where her family could speak English and Xhosa fluently and only learned Afrikaans when transferred to the Western Cape province, historically one of the political melting pots of South Africa). In Oudtshoorn, Anthea's neighbours were mostly Jewish (Oudtshoorn known then as Little Jerusalem), English, Scottish and Italian families who had settled there as RAF's and POW's after the war, as there was a sizeable military base in Oudtshoorn. Also a few Afrikaans families: and because of the Apartheid era back then, she only saw and interacted with black cultures through her father's work, where he was the Master Builder Foreman for a large building company.
Anthea attended an English medium class in a State school and thus never going to grow up to think that her own culture was any better than anyone else's.
"She developed a love for expression in various languages, and as Afrikaans was a challenge, she became the best she could and relished in pursuing, by winning the Bilingual Competition in primary school. This creative spirit was matched with the musical talents of her family: her mother would sing like a nightingale, while he father would play the mouth accordion, and her grandfather, uncles and aunts would all play some musical instrument. She went on to win the primary school singing talent competition, tuition followed and also played lead parts in school pantomimes and musicals throughout her school years. First team school hockey then senior hockey for her region followed - playing international sides such as the United States.
Finalising senior school with distinction and a hand full of A's, Anthea was, during that time also nominated Spring Personality Princess, ending up visiting sick children in hospital wards and raising funds for her school. Being awarded a university bursary for some expenses, she decided not to study further just yet, as looking at the subjects and university choices did not inspire her as she wanted an internationally recognised and universal approach. She then worked to save some money and assisted her parents to put her two younger brothers through school, college and university. Her brothers then entered her into a regional beauty pageant.
"Motivated by parents who always encouraged me with the mission to do more good for the family and others, I decided not to withdraw, as my first instincts were when I reached the final 10. The final pageant and crowning was a huge affair and winning it was a groundbreaking time for me. Though I was eligible to go on to the National Pageants, I decided against it, as contrary to what I thought, the suggestions on how I could be sure to reach the dizzy heights and win peerages, did not inspire me enough to change who I was to someone I did not think I would like very much. At the age of 20 I knew that this would change my chance of keeping my feet on the ground forever, take me away from being an everyday person, which I so loved and still love to be: just an everyday person. I am still glad I turned it down and have no regrets, as I am, as so aptly put in the African word Ubuntu: I am who I am through my association with others".
Rossouw then entered an ensemble into a national fashion design competition - and promptly won! Studies through the University of South Africa came next, and she went on to major with distinction in Communication, Psychology and Sociology, and then on to a post graduate degree with honours: thus through these studies, confirming her quest for understanding human nature and the interaction between fellow beings from all walks of life.
Later, as an adult, Anthea started Dreamcatcher out of choice after failing to find or motivate anyone to make a difference to actually alleviate poverty tangibly and ensure access to business opportunities, by using what she knew to be the "cash cow" and thus fiercely protected business of tourism, especially for women living in the poverty trap. Tapping into her characteristic energy and passion, it was through her association with communities and the creation of opportunities that Anthea truly found her place and the challenge she took head on: to change the status quo and blaze a new trail, and gained a firm sense of groups to which she did and did not wish to belong.
Marrying one of the most incredible people-focused individuals - Hendrik Rossouw - allowed The Dreamcatcher, the freedom to expand on her passion for making life better for people in depressed communities, through skills and knowledge transfer and also ground breaking methods to ensure business channeling to sustain the development. Where she could not find solutions to problems for disadvantaged people, albeit children, senior citizens or the sick, she reinvented the wheel, sometimes faced with enormous odds, particularly during the apartheid era (e.g. clandestine meetings held with the poor which would have made the at that time largely conservative community where I lived shudder!). Together with communities she developed new ways that work better and result in sustainable solutions and happier, healthier people and safer environments in which the women and their children could grow. Compassion for the poor, unjustly treated, the hungry, sick and dispirited, together with anger (that so few people around me cared) were Rossouw's constant companions, as they took their turns to serve as her motivators...
Says Rossouw: "Had I not stayed involved at grass routes, this would have taken me from having freedom of association with the incredible people in the communities. I was indeed offered 'mega bucks' to get myself into any and all of the above, but preferred to tap into my skills, passion and will to make a difference to others. This meant that I had to volunteer for most of my adult life, as though many people would fund me to huge sums to be a star, they would not fund me to help alleviate suffering, loneliness, hunger, poverty and lack of tolerance amongst people. It has made me RICHER in spirit than I could ever have become if I had removed myself from keeping my feet firmly on the ground... and so finally, when I had the chance to meet Mr.Nelson Mandela, I gave my introduction spot to Hedy Gout, a friend who had been dying of brain cancer. Not meeting Mr. Mandela has made me rich, knowing that I am doing what he is imploring everyone to do: Building bridges of hope, light and universal understanding - one can be that and thus not have to meet him to aspire to such action."
25 years in community service have passed fast at the time of writing this in 2009.
Some highlights include those mentioned above and below. Somehow one is inclined to feel that with "The Dreamcatcher" - YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHIN' YET!
Written by Helene Steyn - Historian and Journalist and Greta Wilson, PR & Media, Melkbosstrand, South Africa (firstname.lastname@example.org)