My name is Brandt van der Westhuizen. I moved to Namibia from New Zealand about 6 years ago with the intention of starting a new job as an English Home Language teacher for a local High School. After about 3 years I started to feel that I wanted to do something that took me away from school work but still had enough purpose to motivate me and make me expand my comfort zones.
I stumbled across an article in the newspaper about a Toastmasters club not far from home and as luck would have it they were meeting that very night. From the first meeting I attended the ambiance felt right. I was greeted by the Sergeant-At-Arms and shown to my seat, she sat next to me and went through the guest pack and drew my attention to a Toastmasters magazine with the headline “How to be more Interesting” which I found interesting. The meeting would soon begin and I sat there silently as one of the first speakers talked about keyhole gardening. I found the topic so fascinating that I made a note to go talk to her afterwards. I patiently listened to all the speeches and found every one of them absolutely amazing. During the break I rushed over to go talk to the speaker about keyhole gardening.
She introduced herself as Pam Miller, a skills development specialist in town. She had recently started experimenting with different gardening techniques and we had common interests. Near the end of the meeting I was asked for a review of the night. Good people, encouragement and just plain fun. I made up my mind to join that very night.
Because of the Toastmasters Educational program I started a Food Is Free Project in Swakopmund that helps children develop leadership skills while serving the community and helping to give food to children who far too often have to go without it. I became a professional speaker, speaking in front of thousands of people on the subjects of Creative Leadership and Culture, became a founding member of the Professional Speakers Association of Namibia, started my own publishing company and have made amazing and lasting friendships along the way because of the skills, the dedication and the sense of belonging that I found in Toastmasters.
Regarding advice for anybody still on the fence – just go with it. We regret the things we didn’t do far more than the things we did do. Don’t let yourself feel regret. Put down the phone, switch off the television and spend a few hours improving yourself with good friends that’ll give a helping hand.
Brandt van der Westhuizen, ACG, ALB
Area D4 Director 2018 – 2019