Itumeleng Sekhu-Pedi (34) from Soshanguve outside of Pretoria has defied the odds as a person living with a disability. When she was just 11 months old, she suffered third-degree burns after a candle fell over and created a 70 degrees Celsius fire. As a result, she lost her right arm, four fingers on the left hand and has extensive scarring on her face and the right side of her body.
Despite this, Sekhu-Pedi lives a rich life. She is a philanthropist, internationally accredited speaker, author, business owner, wife and mother.
She says she attended a school for the physically disabled in Westcliff from 1994 and then completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Audiovisual Communications at the University of Johannesburg.
After qualifying, she worked in the media industry for a few years before landing a job as a content producer for Sbusiso Leope, who is commonly known as DJ Sbu, on Metro FM. He encouraged her to tell her story, which led to her book, What do you see?, being published.
“When I launched my book and saw the impact it had around the country, the entrepreneurship bug bit me and I’ve never looked back,” she says in explaining how she became a motivational speaker and businessperson.
While working as a motivational speaker and a Dove Unilever ambassador, she realised that she wanted to have an even bigger impact on the lives of vulnerable people. This motivated her to establish the Itumeleng Sekhu Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that aims to bring hope and heal people.
Despite – or because of – the harm she suffered in the candle fire, she launched a brand of luxury candles called IS Candles. “My story and motivational talks birthed the candles,” she says, explaining that she decided to get over her phobia of candles by confronting her fear and making her own. Even though she has only one hand and one finger, she manages to manufacture the candles herself.
She recently launched a wine brand called IS Wines, which produces a rosé and a pinotage. These are currently available at the City Lodge Group. “The slogan for the wines is ‘Define what life is’ – life happens to everyone, hence we all have a story to tell. However, it is how you redefine your life that matters.”
She encourages people who face adversity to forge forward and accomplish their dreams. “Don’t feel sorry for yourself. The fact that you are still alive means God has a purpose for your life. Seek what your purpose is and start living it. There is a power that lies within you and once you tap into your power and purpose, you become unstoppable. “
For more information on the Itumeleng Sekhu Foundation, visit www.itumelengsekhu.co.za