By KATLEGO NKOSI
Born in Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha), Heather Ferreira set her sails and studied teaching at UWC. This, however, was not her purpose. She was a born nurturer. This came so naturally to her. I sense this as I converse with her in her warm office.
In her sweet but stern voice, she tells me about her second – and chosen – career. In 1990, she applied at the Livingston Hospital for a position she thought she could not get. The application became a seamless acceptance into the best training hospital at the time, coming with a four-year course at Nelson Mandela University, previously known as the University of Port Elizabeth.
“Things just happened for me. It was in me,” she says.
Heather moved to Makhanda 22 years ago and worked at local clinics. In her years of practising in this town, she has learnt the Xhosa language well, saying, “I had to learn isiXhosa to communicate effectively with patients. The small kids taught me. Now, I can fully work in isiXhosa.”
In this current chapter of her career, Sister Heather Ferreira is the head nurse at the Rhodes University Health Care Centre. She says that engaging with young people daily at work reminds her of her three daughters. “I can relate to what you guys go through. It is not easy being a young person nowadays. There’s so much to consider… your goals in life, like getting your degree. It is very hard, especially here at Rhodes.”
Mental and sexual health is critical in Ferreira’s line of work. Acknowledging the mental health struggles at Rhodes University, she says, “We have all been through a lot these past couple of years due to Covid, but you are not alone. We are all here to support you.”
And who supports our sister? “God chose me to become a nurse,” she says. “I just had to become a nurse.”