Born in the Eastern Cape, July grew up in the grim reality of extreme unemployment. He is one in a group of millions that have migrated West because of scarce opportunities in their home villages and cities in the Eastern Cape. He arrived in Gansbaai in 1996, and though his first few months were not met with much luck, he would soon strike an opportunity that would change the course of his life.
While standing on the corner of the R43 and the entrance into Masakhane Township scouting for work opportunities, Michael Lutzeyer, founder and owner of the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, drove up in need of a gardener. For the next 7 years July worked every day to maintain and improve the gardens at Grootbos. He excelled in his position, but with no formal education there were not many opportunities for upward mobility. In 2003 the Grootbos Foundation was founded with Green Futures as its jumpstart programme. July was first on the list to join.
July thrived in the Green Futures programme. “Because of Green Futures now I know what is what. Before I was just a gardener, now I really know about all the plants I work with.” When he completed the programme in 2004 he was re-hired by the Grootbos Lodge as the Estate Manager, placing him in charge of all landscaping duties.
In 2008 he saw an opportunity to expand his services beyond Grootbos by starting his own landscaping business. With some the support of Grootbos, July was able to start the Walker Bay Eco Service. He began the business with a desire to make progress in his career path and to provide better opportunities for people in his community. He now manages 5 employees and works with clients all over the Walker Bay region clearing alien plants, making firewood, creating and maintaining Fynbos trails, and designing landscape.
Nineteen years ago he was met with an opportunity that gave him direction and purpose. “I always have a path to walk now,” he said. Green Futures and the lodge gave him the skills, experience, and knowledge that have allowed him to create his own path forward. As he continues down this road, Grootbos will always walk beside him with love and support as an irreplaceable member of the Grootbos family.