Staff Member Spotlight: Talitha van der Waerden

Title
Managing Director

Photos

Tell us about yourself, Talitha.

I have done a variety of things from working as a tour leader in the Middle East to a communications consultant, and a project manager developing recruitment and change management campaigns for big multinationals.

In 2012, I came to Cape Town on a sabbatical and never left. I took a break from my career to travel in the Netherlands, explore new places and use my skills for a good cause during a work placement with Greenpop. Three months turned into six, and eventually into a job coordinating events and experiences.

I am now excited to manage Roots, and enable others to have fulfilling and inspiring volunteer work placements in Africa. Having been in your shoes, I know how important it is to find the right match between individuals and organizations, and I go out of my way to create the most rewarding experience for all involved.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I love traveling overland to enjoy especially unspoiled nature. But I guess I was the most impressed by my visit to the gorillas in Rwanda. I've always wanted to do that and when the moment was finally there I was excited as a little kid.

After a 3 hour muddy hike, we found a group of 15 gorillas relaxing on a patch of grass in the middle of the forest. When we looked into each others' eyes it was as if they were like me and I could just join their playful games and afternoon naps (unfortunately you are not allowed to).

Not for one second was I scared or nervous to be around them. I think I mostly felt respect for these amazing animals and wish that one hour could have lasted so so much longer.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Because we work with grassroots organizations the interns are often a large part of a small organization. They are able to substantially contribute to the organization.

Some interns are surprised about the amount of responsibility they get or surprise themselves because they stepped out of their comfort zone to do new things. It's their smile at the end of the internship that makes me smile -- someone had a great experience with the organization and living abroad.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I love seeing the passion in each of our host organizations. People saw an issue and opportunity to take matters into their own hands and take action. And every organization does it in its own way.

Doing an internship is not only about skills and experience, but also about your personality. I don't want to sell a certain internship, but am looking for a match where both the intern and host organization have a valuable experience. So after a few months, both look back on this time with a big smile.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

We partner with NGOs and small start-up companies with ethical and sustainable practices; all organisations that are adding valuable contributions towards community programs, conservation efforts, or local and green economies.

We are looking for people keen to get a valuable working experience while making an impact at the same time.