Working in a Covid ward was the break that changed her life

Everson Luhanga

Xoliswa Oliphant has struggled her whole life to get permanent work.

She knows why she has been side-lined: she is a person living with albinism.

This past winter, as the pandemic surged in South Africa, Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital asked for volunteers to work in the Covid ward. 

Xoliswa applied.  

She was asked to work as an administrator in a ward where Covid patients were being received and treated.

“I was not sure if I should go and work in that ward,” she said. “At that time, the Covid death toll was very high.”

The 43-year-old mother of four said she said she knew this might be her last opportunity.

She grabbed it with both hands.

“I realised that God had helped me find the job and He wouldn’t allow me to be infected and die of the virus. I took the challenge,” she said.

She said she has grown and gained experience through her work in a Covid-19 theatre ward. 

Now, because of her hard work, she has become the administrator of a maternity ward.

Xoliswa said she had previously worked as a domestic worker, a cleaner and taken any odd job she could find. “It is difficult for people like me who live with this skin condition to find a job. 

“Employers think we are incapable of things that everyone does,” she said.

Xoliswa said she worked as an intern receptionist for over a year. When she was about to be permanently placed, she was given a recommendation letter that stated that she had successfully completed her internship as a cleaner. 

“It broke my heart.

“I could only come to the conclusion that they had this to me because I was living with albinism.”