Kirsty Hewitt graduated from the Kolbe Catholic College community in 2008 and now calls Namibia home, working within the tourism industry.
Following completion of Year 12, Kirsty studied Environmental Management at university, with a keen desire to finish the degree and carry on with her life.
Kirsty said throughout her Kolbe and university years, she was always restless and frustrated due to being stuck in the same place for so long.
“This restlessness led me to travel,” she said.
After spending a year of travelling to South Africa and New Zealand, she got itchy feet once back on Australian soil and decided to explore the isolated country of Namibia.
“Thanks to Facebook and generosity of complete strangers, I landed in Namibia and began living in farms with various families who shared the same passion of horses I had.
“I felt very much like the Namibian community had adopted me,” Kirsty said.
Kirsty said it took roughly two years until people stopped referring to her as ‘The Aussie’ and learnt her actual name.
She said Africa challenges her every day and she has definitely grown as a person since being living there.
“It’s not an easy life and I certainly have had more tears, drama and life threatening moments in Africa then I have had in any other part of my entire life.
“I knew no one, had no family or friends close by, there were cultural differences, huge language differences and of course the general dangers and corruption of Africa…but in the end I came up swimming!”
Kirsty met her husband through her first project as an environmental officer for a Namibian Construction Company, as her life in Africa began to take shape.
This job saw her take on the role of covering health, safety and environmental manners on various projects at a range of national parks.
“I was involved in everything from transplanting native trees, giving HIV/Aids talks, evacuating workers from areas when wildlife were present, teaching workers to use a toilet and convincing them that keeping livestock within the construction area is a bad idea, along with the suggesting it wasn’t a good idea to use the traditional way of preserving meat (hanging it on the perimeter fence) when the hyena are hanging around!”
She worked with the construction company for four years and has worked in various isolated national parks.
“The biggest challenge of my job was getting to where I needed to be!
“Many of the monthly work trips involved travelling alone more than three thousand kilometres in a heavy four by four, driving through flooded rivers, heavy sand and running out of fuel or dealing with flat tyres many times.
“All of this would happen without a cell phone signal.”
Since then, Kirsty and her husband Kobus now own two businesses, a construction and project management business and a camp/activity centre on a family farm.
“We are outdoors people and love to show others the wonderful things our home has to offer through the campsite business.”
Kirsty said there is a saying ‘Only in Africa’ which refers to the frequent way the impossible seems to happen in Africa.
She explained how there was a distressed lion in one of the worksites and it lunged at her while in a car.
“This was highly unusual for a lion to express such aggression in an area where they are very accustomed to vehicles.
“We think the lion was the lone survivor of a slaughter by farmers.
Kirsty said the action began once rangers needed to tranquillise the lion.
“Many people don’t realise but in order to shoot a tranquilliser dart, you need to be really close to the animal…within 20 metres close!”
She said the dart didn’t penetrate properly and the lion began to charge at the ranger who was sitting on the back of his land cruiser, before a second shot was successful.
Kirsty Hewitt’s advice for current students is to not wait for others and encourages people not be afraid to go out of your comfort zone.
“If I had waited to travel with friends, or when it be most convenient for others, then I would never have gone anywhere.”
She added people shouldn’t be scared to discover places alone, as when you are alone you are forced to make connections with people you may of otherwise ignored.
Kirsty said the public speaking and speech tasks as part of her English classes at Kolbe have influenced her, growing her confidence when it comes to the HIV/Aids awareness talks she delivers in front of more than six hundred school students.
“It’s intimidating working in a completely different culture where English isn’t the first language, and having to talk about adult topics with a range of age groups was certainly a challenge I wouldn’t of coped with if it wasn’t for those lessons,” she said.
As she has grown up, she said she has gained more respect for her teachers.
“Sometimes you don’t recognise the wisdom given until years later when you get to experience life.
“There were some really fantastic teachers who gave more than just planned lessons.”