It’s the human moments and the memories they create that make Charity Ndlovu’s job as a gifts and awards representative at SAIT rewarding.
Ndlovu’s favourite recent moment occurred at SAIT’s Chinook Lodge Resource Centre, when her team held a small party to give out cheques for the Indigenous Careers Award.
At the time, the award was brand-new and had just been rolled out at SAIT to help fund indigenous students in high-demand programs to kick-start their careers.
“It was exciting to see them from the beginning to the time we gave out the cheques and how happy they were,” Ndlovu said in an interview.
So much of her career as part of the Student Awards team has been getting to see the process come full-circle, from the moment students apply to when they are selected.
“I like to work in a position where you see completion,” Ndlovu explained.
“I’ve had so many, many, many other pleasant experiences. I cannot list them.”
After working at SAIT for just over a year, Ndlovu’s main responsibility has been coaching students through the awards process and ensuring they make strong applications.
The explaining can get repetitive, especially at the beginning of fall and winter semesters.
“When the lines are really long, that is all you talk about,” she recalls.
“But that is part of the job.”
Always wanting to help, Ndlovu struggles with not being able to offer aid to everyone who needs it.
“A lot of times you’re dealing with students who are really in financial need. When they tell you what they’ve been going through, it’s so painful,” she relates.
“The challenge is wanting to help everybody and not being able to. Sometimes it gets overwhelming. There are ups and downs. We have to learn how to adjust.”
Ndlovu is in good company at SAIT as a life-long learner.
She was born in Zimbabwe, and spent her early years commuting between Malawi and her home for elementary and high school.
Later, she moved to England for a time, where she met her husband.
Two of her sisters immigrated to Canada, and she followed them in 2004, first to Toronto to complete a diploma in hospitality management at Humber College, then to Fort McMurray to work in a corporate setting after getting her degree.
“I just decided I was tired of working for big companies, and I wanted to work for either a non-profit organization or an educational institution.”
Since finding her place at SAIT, Ndlovu decided to follow her newfound passion in event management, a career that required further education.
That’s why she has been pursuing a Bachelor’s in Professional Communication at Victoria’s Royal Roads University by correspondence over the last few years.
As she wraps up her degret, Ndlovu is gearing up to pursue a masters in April.
“I like learning,” she admits.
Ndlovu’s experience in education motivates her to help other students achieve their dreams in Alberta’s tough economy.
“Money isn’t everything, but in a way, it’s everything,” she says.
“Without money you won’t be able to finish school. With the economy being as bad as it is, a lot of people have been laid off and are in financial need.”
Annual reports from the Alumni and Development department at SAIT show a spike in awards applications, from 19,000 in 2014 to 21,000 last year.
“When students come to us for help and assistance, being able to give that help is just so fulfilling.”
Ndlovu truly loves her job.
“Of all the places I’ve ever worked – I’ve worked in some really awesome places – SAIT is the best.
“What makes SAIT the best is the people that I work with, not just in Alumni and Development, but in my small Student Awards team – my God.”
She also enjoys the interaction with students who come to her for help.
“I get to meet a lot of different students from a lot of different places. It’s like I get to travel just by being at work.”
In the age of global travel and communication, Ndlovu appreciates the opportunity to meet and learn from people all over the world that she would never encounter otherwise.
“I’m curious, I like to travel and learn things, so you get talking, you learn this, you learn that. It’s a never-ending learning process.”
It’s especially the follow-through of knowing she has made a difference in someone’s education at the end of the day that makes her work worthwhile.
“It completes the circle, and I absolutely love that,” she enthuses.
“I love the part where I get to help students fulfill their dreams in some way.”