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Cristo Ambraai En Patrick Janse

Human development on farm level: Life is a constant search for meaning

By Gerrit Rautenbach

It doesn’t matter where or who you are, we all have the same essential drive. To not only make it, but also to make a difference. On a certain day in the Bokkeveld this universal truth was yet again revealed when an amazing spread of thinking questioned the concept of the meaning of life.

It was the height of the harvesting season, but Ockie Geldenhuys from Normat Farms gave 12 of his stalwarts the opportunity to join a four hour workshop of a nature they were not too sure of. They were there to be exposed to the concept of “the meaning of life”.

Klasie Wessels is a trained and qualified logo-therapist. “Logo” is the Greek word for meaningfulness or identity. Klasie is trained to help people to understand their meaning in life.

“The Isiqalo workshop held on Matjiesrivier, a peaceful Bokkeveld farm, was a long way from where I was yesterday in a congested corporate office with 12 superior businessmen in Johannesburg. Two worlds that could not have been further apart. In both sessions the themes of a sense of life, personal vision and the discovery of guidelines to more meaningfulness were discussed,” said Klasie.

“I come from a corporate background, so this was new territory to me. Almost as new as to them! But then I discovered the universality between the two groups. Between all human beings for that matter. We all share the same internal emotions, fears and a desire for happiness. In essence, we all want to improve our lives, make a difference and contribute to the world out there.”

The essence of the workshop is based on the works of Dr Viktor Frankl, primarily known for his book, Man’s search for meaning. While encaged in a Nazi concentration camp for three years, he developed this theory – and hence the book – as a guideline on how to create a meaningful life amidst the appalling circumstances of a vicious life in a concentration camp. If you can be positive there, you can be positive anywhere. Logo-therapy was born. Meaningfulness.

Research proved productivity is directly related to a sense of worth. The level of awareness of any human being’s own dignity, realities and impact on life have a direct influence on his or her performance.

“Participation in workshops like this creates a more positive interaction in the workplace, better working relationships and a bigger awareness of responsibilities,” said Klasie.

But what did Ockie Geldenhuys, Chief Executive Member of Normat Farms say, who agreed on letting Klasie do the workshop with 12 of his personnel from the three farms?

“I am convinced exposure is a critical element of human development and was excited to expose a dozen of Normat Farms’ workers to the workshop offered by Streetschool. We, therefore, explained beforehand what the value of exposure is and that they should use the opportunity to learn and develop as much as possible. We were looking forward to getting feedback from them afterwards. There was a great expectation because the workshop also compliments the work we do through the Isiqalo Development Trust amongst our workers.

“The feedback was that the participants indeed benefited from the universal truths discussed during the workshop. For some, it was strange to share their own thoughts and feelings in a group, which in itself was part of their development. For others, the content was a great supplement to previous other courses they have done. I yet again realized how unique each individual is by listening to the different feedback of people who all attended the same workshop. It emphasizes the importance and contribution diversity brings to a team and how we complement each other. We are very grateful to have been able to share in this opportunity.”

And what did the participants have to say? Some excerpts (verbatim) from the participants on a short questionnaire:

What did you like?

  • I felt good about myself.
  • To hear how people feel about things.
  • I learnt that people (including myself) are good for this world.
  • The smallest thing counts in the world.
  • To open up to other people helps a lot.
  • Best of all was the discovery of yourself.
  • I learnt that you should not be afraid to talk and that you should stand up for people needing your help.

 What else would you have liked to discuss?

  • Learn more about myself.
  • How to respect other people.
  • How to be an example to other people.
  • I’d like to learn more on how to change negative thoughts into positive thoughts.
  • How to listen to people and understand them.
  • I’d love to have more workshops like this.
  • How to focus my thoughts.

 What would you like to discuss next time?

  • How to be happy, even if there’s thunder in my heart.
  • How to understand other people and how to help.
  • How to control your thoughts better.
  • What makes you a good person.
  • The discussion was great in a group context – next time we can go onto a deeper level.

 What did you learn about yourself?

  • How to handle things without being unhappy.
  • Caring (without expecting anything in return).
  • I don’t have to be scared to talk to other people.
  • To love and care.
  • I can do anything if my thinking is positive.
  • I am in control of my life.
  • I am in this world for a reason and I mean something to other people.

It is clear that they’ve learnt a lot about the meaning of life, but it is just as clear that they can still progress a lot further. We all can, always. When Klasie does a workshop with a corporate management team, he has them for at least five days solid. This would be difficult in a farming context. Therefore, he proposes to adapt the course to run over a number of weeks, where the classroom sessions will be every second or third week for four hours at a time. The participants will then also get “homework” to be incorporated in the next session.

If you believe in helping your people to understand the meaning of life better, you can contact Klasie: 082 554 4614,,

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