Nicolette Writes

Professional Freelance Writer and Stay-at-Home Mom

Archive for the month “August, 2011”

MR SOUTH AFRICA 2011 – Adriaan Bergh

Adriaan Bergh – Mr South Africa 2011!
-by Nicolette Ferreira for Vision Magazine

Matthew 5: 14 says that “[a] city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden”. 23-year old Adriaan Bergh was ‘set on a hill’ the moment he was crowned as Mr South Africa 2011. He is the youngest person ever to have won this prestigious title and the light he shines is spreading to every nook and crevice in our country –just as Matthew admonished us nearly 2000 years ago: “Shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Adriaan Bergh, our winsome and warm-hearted new Mr South Africa, spent his childhood years in Bela Bela (formerly known as ‘Warmbad’) in Limpopo Province. Whether you look at Adriaan’s ‘Facebook’ or ‘Twitter’ account, or whether you receive an email from him, his faith in God resembles the hope that the beloved psalmist, David, found in his Lord.

Adriaan is a devoted sportsman: he obtained provincial colours in rugby, cricket, golf, tennis, cross-country and the biathlon. Wow! Have I mentioned that our Mr South Africa is also a very skilled lifeguard, ladies? We would all rather watch Adriaan run the beach than David Hasselhoff!

Mr South Africa is not only sporty (he was a member of the Vodacom Cup Bulls Rugby Squad), but he is also smart: at school he was one of the top ten academic achievers! He credits his parents for teaching him how to live a balanced life. In an interview with the man who was voted our country’s most handsome, hardworking and inspiring man (other than our husbands of course!), Adriaan shared his heart for God and our country with Vision Magazine.

V: You matriculated from Hoërskool Warmbad in 2005. What did you decide to do after school?
A: I studied BSc Quantity Surveying at Tuks (the University of Pretoria) and successfully finished my degree. I am now staying in the Jacaranda city, Pretoria, where I am busy completing my honours degree.

V: How did your modelling career start? Was it something exciting like a talent scout seeing you in the street?!
A: Haha! Yes – my modelling career started in true Hollywood fashion after being ‘scouted’ at the Cape Town airport by a modelling agency. Some modelling work followed and the Mr South Africa 2011 title came shortly after being crowned ‘Bone Wear Model of the Year’ and ‘Sportsman of the Year’ at the Mr South Africa 2011 Competition. Since all of this, everything has been happening so fast: doors have opened for me in the radio, TV, magazine and newspaper industries!

V: What is your personal goal as Mr South Africa? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
A: To me the most important thing as Mr South Africa is to be an example: I want to be someone the youth can look up to – someone with strong Christian morals and values. I also want to be involved in various charities, especially focusing on sports for kids, teaching young people to believe in themselves. (‘You have just as much potential for success as the most successful person you know.’ – Ralph Marston)

V: What does a day in Mr South Africa’s life look like? I am imagining lots of glamour! I follow you on Twitter, and everything seems so exciting!
A: Well, since I was crowned my life has been much different than it used to be! Everyday is exciting and I am constantly travelling all over the country. But even when I did not have all the Mr South Africa responsibilities, I could never sit still for a second! I lead a very active lifestyle, and even now that I am so busy, I never skip one day at the gym.

V: What has been your greatest challenge as Mr South Africa (other than having to deal with thousands of fans who love the fact that you are single!)?
A: Haha! I love being Mr South Africa! So far, no challenges. I am just very new to the whole modelling industry… it feels weird to smile for the camera all the time. Sometimes they take more than 500 pictures a day! But I am starting to get used to it.

V: Tell us about some of the charities you are involved with?
A: I am an ambassador for the ‘PinkDrive Campaign’ – you can find them on ‘Facebook’. This campaign is committed to improving breast cancer awareness and providing and offering services to women across South Africa (such as affordable mammography services and oncology facilities), particularly to those who do not have access to information on breast health. I am also a representative of SANCA, fighting against drug and alcohol abuse.

‘Paying it Forward SA’, whose slogan is ‘Don’t pay me back, pay it forward’, and ‘Let’s Play’, an NPO that focuses on using sport to teach children life skills, are also two charities that are close to my heart. It has all been so rewarding! Haha – once, when I was at the Abraham Kriel Kinderhuis, one of the little boys asked me: ‘Oom, is oom die President?’
V: Well Adriaan – we will vote for you as President!

V: You are very open about your relationship with and love for God. Tell us about your King?
A: Yes, I am a Christian – Jesus is King! I give all the glory to Jesus Christ – without him nothing is possible for me. I know the reason why I am so blessed: it is because I give Jesus my glory. “Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (John 13:16)

We are on earth not to be worshipped, but to worship and give God all the glory. Sometimes the world wants to pull you in, but I have got such a great support system behind me and they pull me back to reality very fast! My family has especially been very supportive. Family is everything to me – without my family, I never would have been where I am today.

V: Any advice you want to leave our readers with?
A: Positive thinking is crucial for successful, happy living. Whether you think you can or you think you can’t… you are right! (Henry Ford) Confidence is the name of the game. Anything in life is possible – it just depends on how badly you want it!

You got to have a dream and think about it: you can’t hit a target if you can’t see it. Write it down and make it your target, think about it everyday, do everything necessary to achieve this! My motto in life is ‘you got to dream it, to live it’.

Perhaps just one more word of advice: Be different! If you do what everyone else does you will have what everyone else has! ‘An authentic life is the most personal form of worship.’ (Sarah Ban Breathnach)

Adriaan Bergh is indeed a radiant city on a hill! As Mr South Africa 2011 he is shining God’s light and love in our country. Watch out for Adriaan this year – Mr South Africa won’t be sitting still on any throne! Let’s pray for him, as we are urged to do in 1 Timothy 2:1-3, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour…”

For more information on Mr South Africa 2011, Adriaan Bergh, go to:

Writing The Human Psyche… An Interview With Michael Robotham

Writing the Human Psyche
By Nicolette Ferreira

I was recently the victim of crime. I first noticed the bruised plant on our kitchen windowsill, and then I saw, GASP… the cooling lemon meringue pie was gone! (Okay, the pie was actually my cellphone). The criminal of this horrendous deed was never caught, but, if, on the other hand, I were the famous, best-selling crime and mystery author, 49-year old Australian born Michael Robotham, the mystery of the meringue would have been solved. Stephen King – yes, the Stephen King whom you probably have a entire section devoted to on your book shelve, describes Robotham’s work as “exceptional”. So dust off your book shelve and make way for Michael Robotham’s psychological thrillers: ‘You won’t just bite your fingernails, you’ll be eating your whole hand!’

Being the eager beaver journalist that I am, I ask Michael Robotham the first appropriate question: Why crime? Surely not the first time hearing this question, he explains his fascination with the human psyche:
“When Mozart wrote his symphonies, when Hitler ordered the Final Solution, when a serial killer murders young girls, or when a teenage mother abandons her baby in a rubbish bin – it all comes back to some aspect of human behaviour.”

Maybe I can write a crime novel, I think to myself. Imagine: I can go to Mug and Bean every day with a funky beret, big black glasses, and an even bigger cappuccino! Oh wait.. this could be time-consuming and once I’m a famous writer there will be, of course, so many social events that I will simply have to attend (publicity, publicity!). I check with Michael: How long does it take you to do research for a book?

“I tend to distrust plotting. I’m more inclined to take the ‘headlight view’ of writing. I make sure I can see just far enough ahead to navigate through the darkness, but have very little idea where I’m going. The advantages of this are tremendous spontaneity. I surprise myself. Hopefully I surprise the reader. The disadvantages are that sometimes I drive straight off a cliff!

This sounds like a dangerous business. Hmmm… I am scared of just cycling down the street in case a car will hit me, or worse, hoot at me! I quickly move on to the next question I have jotted down. I see a scribbled note: “I am breaking my heart over this story, and cannot bear to finish it” (Charles Dickens). I ask Michael whether he finds that the characters of a new book he is writing consume his life:

“My characters live and breathe in my head and I think of them as real people. This sense of attachment is even stronger because I tend to write in the first person. Sometimes I feel as though my narrator is sitting at my shoulder, whispering the story to me. When The Suspect was sold around the world on a 117-page part-manuscript, none of the publishers asked me how it ended. Eventually, I neared the end and the main character, Joe O’Loughlin, was in terrible danger, about to lose his wife, his career, maybe his life. I suddenly realised that if I were to hit by a bus tomorrow, Joe would be trapped. His life destroyed. I was the only person who knew how to save him. I wrote manically for three days to get the story down…just in case. That’s how much characters take over your life.

As I sip my frothy coffee and listen to Michael, I slip back into my reverie of being a crime writer. This could be glamorous… I wonder what a day in the life of a writer looks like? So I ask the man himself. When Michael tells me he writes while dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, sitting at an outdoor café at a beachside cafe, having ordered poached eggs and a large coffee, I am completely sold on the idea. It wasn’t his mentioning of shorts and a T-shirt, but rather my overactive mind imagining a little floral dress, a pink bicycle and a basket full of apples. The idea gets even more romantic when he tells me that he writes longhand in bound notebooks to protect his eyes from the computer screen and because there is something about pen and paper that leads to shorter sentences and sharper dialogue. “It’s as though the mind edits more effectively when it knows the result has to consume ink and rainforests.”

Even though Robatham spends most of his time in shorts at a beachside cafe scribbling away at his next crime novel, he feels that there is nothing more important than family life. When he was younger, he was desperate to leave his mark on the world – to write something that would outlast him. Since he had a family, that desire has gone. His children will be his legacy and everything else is just window dressing. Wow – now that’s a jewel to meditate on! I wonder whether I will be able to keep my feet on the ground once I start mingling with the celebs…

Michael Robatham clearly has more noble ideas of what is important in life! He is passionate about Africa and also about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers around the world. His youngest daughter was born in Harare in 2000. He moved from Sydney to Harare while working on a non-fiction book, which was set in Rhodesia. Unfortunately, the farm invasions began after they arrived, which made things more difficult than they expected. He has recently been involved in collecting clothes, blankets and tools to send to Zimbabwe.

At the end of our interview, I order a coffee to take on my way (just to look a little bit more like a writer) and I decide to go to the nearest bookstore for one of Michael’s books. I ask him which one is his favourite:

“I am supposed to answer, ‘my latest book, of course, Bombproof’. But there will always be a special place in my heart for The Suspect, because it was my first and because it changed my life. The Drowning Man (first published as Lost) was the hardest to write (Could I do it again? Was I one hit wonder?). Then there is Shatter, the darkest – my wife would only read it during the daytime and said afterwards that we’d never be invited to dinner again, because nobody would have a sick bastard like me in their house! Lastly, Bombproof is the most fun – an old fashioned criminal romp – fast, funny, violent and sexy. It didn’t feel like work at all.”

I decide to do all aspiring writers out there a favour and ask Michael what advice he has for us:

Write, write, write and when you’re absolutely sure you can’t write another word, pick up a book and read. Dissect books. Take them apart. Try to understand what makes them good or bad or how they could be better. The truly great books can’t be dismantled. They are seamless. Perfect.”

Perfect…as I think of this word, I think of God’s kingdom and master plan (perhaps for me to be the next Robotham?!). I go home, inspired by Michael Robotham, to write more books for the kingdom’s library: to give joy, to change lives and perhaps add…a little bit of mystery!

Article for Vision Magazine

Hope Rwanda

Hope Rwanda: Remembering and Restoring the People of Rwanda.
By Nicolette Ferreira.

There was a time when the streets of Rwanda ran red with blood. This was a time that the Rwandans feel the world forgot them. It did not happen so long ago that we are allowed to let it slide into the dustier crevices of our memory. While South Africa was celebrating its first democracy, an atrocity fiercer than the Holocaust forever tainted the gentle slopes of Rwanda.

In the space of a mere 100 days, April to June 1994, an estimated number of 800 000 people (mostly Tutsis, but also including moderate Hutus) died at the hand of Hutu militias known as Interahamwe, encouraged by class divisions to “kill the Tutsis, [because] they’re cockroaches.” During this time, announcements over the radio ominously resounded through the land of a thousand hills: “We must all fight the Tutsis. We must finish with them, exterminate them, sweep them from the whole country. There must be no refuge for them. They must be exterminated. There is no other way.” At least 250 000 women were ruthlessly raped during the next three months.

Although today the rain runs clear in the streets of Rwanda, bleeding hearts and communities were left behind. Nightmares still echo through the land and pester those who witnessed the genocide. A survivor of the genocide, Beatrice, recalls: “I remember machetes flying around right and left as they cut people in every part of their bodies…I woke up many hours later to see that I was still alive. On top of me were the bodies of my seven children.” Running into the night, Beatrice was captured again, hacked on the neck and raped. She bore the child of her rapist.

In 2004, Mark and Darlene Zchech (from Hillsong Church, Sydney) founded a venture to breathe life back into a country filled with dead bones – Hope Rwanda. According to this project’s informative website, Hope Rwanda is a faith based, non-profit organisation that unites individuals, churches, governments, NGO’s, education, trade, healthcare and business professionals to restore hope and justice to the survivors of the genocide.

In 2006, the Zschechs launched the project “100 Days of Hope”. Over 100 days the project brought hope to the people of Rwanda in various areas: schools, homes and orphanages were built; medical aid was provided – including open heart surgeries; nutrition, hygiene and leadership development were placed under an inquisitive light; churches and humanitarian groups already working in Rwanda received much needed support; widows, orphans, prostitutes and prisoners were lovingly fostered. It was for this very same reason that God admonished his people: “When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow…[T]here should be no poor among you.” – Deut. 15 and 24.

The life and anticipation that these projects cultivate have helped Rwandan women (70 percent of Rwanda’s population was female after the genocide) to move beyond a tragedy that could so easily consume them. One of the greatest lessons female survivors had to learn was to bridge their differences and work side by side with neighbours whose relatives killed members of their family. Here there is no eye for an eye. No tooth for a tooth. One survivor states that “the solution for what happened is to cultivate peace, have no resentment or hatred, and thereby becoming a good example to those who see you.” Another survivor shares: “I have learnt to avoid ignorance. I especially want people to know that crime and violence are punishable by the laws.”

What can we learn from the genocide – those of us who did not witness or experience these three months of horror? We can learn from the steadfast hearts of the people who survived this terror and continue to praise and honour God in the hurricanes of life. “Why are you downcast, oh my soul, why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God (Psalm 42:11). After experiencing the hateful force of the genocide, many widows and survivors of the genocide proclaim, with voices that must surely be making way for our Redeemer to return: I praise God! I thank God! He has answered my prayers!

Darlene and Mark Zschech encourage us to get involved: “for some it is raising money, for others it is sending people, for some it is about physically going there.” We are reminded here of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation that “each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give” and that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). And with our giving hearts, the landlocked country beautifully dotted with small farms and known for its yields of coffee and tea, will yield God’s peace, prosperity and purpose.


• Salbi, Zainab. The Other Side of War. Women’s Stories of Survival and Hope. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.

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