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From the age of 16 Lynette Coetzee worked at Transnet, South Africa’s railway giant. She was in fact a ‘railway child’, her father also having worked for the company. Lynette started as a data capturer, slowly moving up the ranks and studying part time until she became the company’s Chief Librarian. It was a job she treasured and Lynette was a proud employee.
Then one day without warning, her boss came into her office and told her that her job as Chief Librarian was over. She was being despatched to head up a new department in the company called Social Corporate Investment. Suddenly she was faced with an unfamiliar world: A new modern office, a company car which she had to learn to drive, and the formidable challenge of steering the companies efforts to respond to the needs of those less privileged in South Africa.
The country was entering a new era and Apartheid was soon to come to an end. Large companies like Transnet needed to be part of initiatives to redress the suffering of the poor and their lack of access to basic services caused by years of political, economic and social segregation.
True to form Lynette got stuck in, travelling to the countries poorest and most rural areas to start a range of small projects. Then, an opportunity arose to partner with the University of Johannesburg and provide coaches and support for a 3 coach eye clinic which travelled to various locations across the country providing eye care to those in need.
Lynette’s life changed again when a problem arose and 2000 people were left waiting for hours to receive spectacles. She had a powerful moment of inspiration and realised that what was needed was a fully fletched hospital train. Her leap of faith was to approach her boss and convince him and the company to invest millions in this new project and then to make it happen.
And she has! For almost two decades now the Phelophepa Hospital train, the only one of its kind in the world, with 18 coaches and a dedicated staff of passionate professionals has helped almost 3 million people. It is a miracle on wheels and Lynette has guided its extraordinary success since the very beginning.
Join us on a wonderful ride as Lynette shares her story. Be moved and inspired as you witness how a leap of faith can radically change ones own life and the lives of countless others.
Find out more about the Phelophepa Train
The producers wish to thank the Impumelelo Social Innovations Centre for their support on this episode.