[intro]Andricia Hinckermann, a LLB student at UFS, was recently crowned second princess in the Miss Earth South Africa competition. It has allowed her to immerse herself in her community and be the change she wants to see. She writes for The Journalist this week about her roots in Bronville, outside Welkom and the people who changed the course of her life.[/intro]

It is through the sound of breaking beer bottles, violence and the everyday stigma of “coloured people have no ambition” that I saw the need to be different. Bronville, was my difference, it inspired breeding grounds that gave birth to my new life. A better life, and the desire to serve my country for a bright future not only for myself but for those to follow.

My township, my community has served me well. It has made me realise that Ubuntu is so beautiful, so unique, and so precious. “I am, because we are”.

So yes, you too can rise. Leave your mark, embrace the legacy of our country and be the difference you want to see.
I was born in Bronville, a coloured township outside Welkom. This is the place I call home. Many see it as a place of no hope where youngsters stand on street corners engaging in illegal substances, alcohol and violent activities.

Andy 2 (1)

Growing up, the neighbourhood kids would come together every afternoon at my house to play games known as “skop die bal”, “touches” or “skipping”. These afternoons were often filled with laughter, frustrations caused by losing a game and even an angry face when someone threw a ball hard at you leaving you in pain, with a big blue bruise.
These friendships, formed predominantly with the boys who were also my next door neighbours, quickly faded away within my high school years.

I attended a model C primary school, called Welkom Preparatory School. I travelled to school by bus with others from Bronville. I remember all the school songs, the hilarious bus driver and the regular teasing. Until something happened one day. One of the girls said: “Ek’t jou pa iewers dronk gesien gister, loop en slinger in die pad”. The others were laughing.

These words were painful. My dad was an alcoholic and it felt as if I was judged. I was hurt, very hurt but simultaneously this day was an eye opener. I remember thinking I will change the way in which you see me…I will rise above my circumstances and I won’t allow you to see me fail.

Andy 2

In that moment, I felt the need to prove people wrong. I felt the desire to want something different, something new, something original and it became a need. I wanted to see the positive role models in my community, which I had long looked up to. Like Veronique De Jager my neighbour who was now a medical doctor. I was tired of driving into the township and seeing faces of those bullied by everyday challenges.

At the end of primary school, my mom encouraged me to enrol at St Andrews, a private school. I hesitated because I knew most of my friends would not apply. My mom convinced me that if I wanted a good education, I needed to make the right decisions.

Despite his personal difficulties, my father agreed with her. He worked as a civil engineer but my mom constantly feared that he could lose his job. It would mean she would have to take my sister and myself out of the school. But she was willing to take the risk. She would remind us to work hard and said she would sacrifice as much as possible for us to succeed in life. She was well aware of my dad’s drinking habits but she continued to push hard. There were tough times but those times reminded me that I could not fail.

Andy 4

I started my high school career in 2006 at St Andrews School. At first it was not what I had imagined at all. I hated every moment of it. I felt out of place. I felt lonely. I felt that this was not the environment for me. I longed for the norm, the comfort zone, the bumping into people that looked like me.

I wanted to change the sudden look on people’s faces when I introduced myself as a coloured girl from the township. I wanted people to know that in our community we can also have positive role models to look up to.

My transition from a very lonely world at St Andrews, thinking that I cannot fit into the world of the “rich” or that they will never understand me because my circumstances are so different to theirs, slowly became a world that I was more than ok to live with. I met my best friend at this school, someone that encouraged me, supported me and held my hands when times things were tough.

Her name is Loesche Saaiman, a humble girl (at that time) that appreciated me for who I was. She was the one person I could open up to, even though she’s never lived in my circumstances. This changed my world of loneliness into a world that became home.

I developed a strong character at St Andrews, a spirit of believing in myself and the drive to never give up. My love grew to want to experience difference and to be the change agent in my community. I exposed myself to different platforms and realised that identifying yourself with difference is the most beautiful thing. At the same time I had to defend being different to others and sitting in the presence of people in my community that although I tried to explain, didn’t bother to listen. All they thought was that I was trying to be better, but those words I also soon got used to.

What was important for me was to spend time with those I could share my dreams with, people I could learn from. I knew what I wanted and I was determined to reach it.

In my matric year I decided to study LLB- Law at the University of the Free State. I wanted to study Law, because all I had in mind was helping my community, studying our country’s justice system in order to understand some of the questions of the past. I wanted answers to all the question marks in my life and found ways to do this.

I served as Prime of a residence that allowed me to interact with so many people from different countries. This created a platform for many other leadership positions that followed such as serving on the Student Representative Council (SRC) and the Black Lawyers Association, student chapter.

Earlier this year I decided to enter the Miss Earth South Africa leadership programme. It empowered young women with knowledge about the destruction of our environment. I needed something that would challenge me. As part of the programme, I had to look for sponsorships for projects that included planting food gardens, sanitary drives at schools, planting trees and food security projects. I was chosen as second princess. It has given me the tools to remind every person that they can be a positive role model in one person’s life. All we need is one person to tell us we can make it, that we can rise beyond our circumstances. My mom did that for me. I will do it for others.