Isabel Potgieter N3TC Hero

“Doen aan ander wat jy graag aan jouself gedoen wil hê. Leef voluit.”

“I’m having a hug day” says Isabel cheerily after spending a week away from home at tourism shows and training sessions for the N3 Gateway Project. She certainly is a good hugger, making one feel part of her extended family immediately with a beaming smile and an offer of refreshments.

Isabel Potgieter is doing a remarkable job in her role as Membership Manager North for the N3 Gateway Association. She has the responsibility of looking after the interests of members in Free State, Gauteng and Mpumalanga, the Drakensberg, Midlands, and Battlefields. “I love to explore and am so pleased for this opportunity with N3 Gateway. It is growing on a daily basis.” She enjoys the challenge of helping local tourism associations see the benefit of joining the initiative. Gently explaining what it entails and how working together benefits everyone. Dave Short from Swinburne “Isabel’s cheerful and friendly approach keeps everybody’s enthusiasm alive. She has the unique ability to mediate in disputes, and to suggest practical ways to solve problems.”

Determined to embrace the wider community, her family extends to the BaSotho women of Refilwe food tunnels, Manana Moloi of Mamelo (whom Isabel regards as a mother – their families having been linked through years of knowing each other in a small town), the hardworking people at Hope House and her church community too. “It is easy to support people who are doing such fantastic work. I just link people up with one another, help out where I can and assist with sourcing donations. Sometimes all that they need is to sit with coffee and have someone listen to the sadness in the community – I can do that.” The work is close to the earth and close to her heart.

Isabel has endured more than her fair share of hardships but has emerged a stronger person for them. Growing up in the small town of Harrismith, walking to school, and being able to celebrate special occasions surrounded by a large family including grandparents gave her a good base to build on. “I’m just an ordinary person but I have had to climb some mountains. This has just made me stronger.” Con Roux, Commercial Manager for N3TC quips “Isabel is trying to save the world. Her enthusiasm and energy seem to know no bounds!”

She is definitely happiest in her home beneath the Platberg in Harrismith. “I love my mountain,” she says gazing out of the big North facing windows in the home her precious husband Pottie built for her. “My house and my family are the most important things in my life.” She lavishes her family with love and good wholesome food. Isabel’s grown up daughters, Karin and Isandrie, visit often to stock up on homemade rusks, chicken pies, rice pudding, hugs and to enjoy the friendly way she wakes them in the mornings. Karin says “My mother has kept us grounded and safe through difficult times and taught us the value of everything, to appreciate it all and also to look up and move forward. She’s an amazing woman full of wisdom and always willing to help others even if that means putting herself on the back burner at times.” Isandrie adds “She taught us from childhood that if life is bad we should just look up and smile, and pretend it did not bother us because tomorrow the sun will shine again and then everything will look better. The three of us are best friends.”

Although, it would appear that there is little time to spare, Isabel still makes time to knit, play with her dogs, do a little gardening and work on her house. With a day crammed end to end with colour, joy, love and people, Isabel sleeps really well at night. Dreaming no doubt of who needs a comforting Isabel-Hug, of whom she can help tomorrow. Raising funds for cancer patients and people with Parkinson’s disease are next on her list.

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Isabel Potgieter N3TC Hero, “I love to explore and am so pleased for this opportunity with N3 Gateway. Supplied.