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It was while doing community development on farms in the Boland region of South Africa that Alinda Nortje, a former social worker with a statuesque frame, warm smile and wildly contagious energy, became deeply aware of the emotional baggage many people at the lower job levels in her country were carrying. Low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, lack of a personal vision and a feeling of hopelessness due to generations of social oppression were common.

Nortje searched for an indigenous personal-empowerment program that would be accessible to people with an educational deficit, but found that most available self-development programs were either aimed at management-level employees or were addressing the symptoms and not the underlying problems.

Free To Grow was born when she set out to design such a course herself. Over a four-year period she trained hundreds of farm workers, incorporating their feedback into the course design and ensuring that the program was relevant to address both their often painful past as well as the challenges they were facing daily. Since its inception Free To Grow has trained more than 35,000 people in more than 400 organizations, such as Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, Barloworld, Woolworths, and AVIS, as well as UNICEF and numerous NGOs in South Africa, Namibia and Kenya.

EXPANDING THE SKILLS
This year Free To Grow invited The Grove to conduct two Principles of Graphic Facilitation training workshops in the surrounding areas of Cape Town, South Africa. A diverse group of 50 people from Free To Grow’s offices and client organizations in South Africa and Namibia participated in the workshops and are now actively using their new skills in their work as trainers, facilitators, HR professionals and senior executives. Some of FTG’s client companies represented were De Beers, South African Breweries and Sun International.

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“Visual metaphor helps people—especially those with an educational deficit—to understand and retain concepts that otherwise would easily have been too abstract or complex. Because of our strong focus on graphics, The Grove’s methodology immediately appealed to us when we came across their website,” Nortje said.