BTE Student Stories

Maida Matsasi Rasekhomo, Tswelopele, ABTS

The Alliance Building and Training Session (ABTS) is an annual event that celebrates the achievements, lessons learned, local successes, best practices, and innovation stories from participating Bridge to Employment (BTE) sites. The event brings together volunteers, J&J mentors, site coordinators, current students, and program graduates. In 2021 and 2020 this global event was held virtually. What follows is the reflection of 2021 Student Ambassador, Maida Matsasi Rasekhomo, who was selected to attend and represent Tswelopele, South Africa.


I had the most phenomenal experience at the ABTS conference. I see myself as one of the lucky girls to win the title of being a “Student Ambassador.” I am glad that I have spent four days and three nights at such a productive and educational conference. I have been asking myself how it was going to feel to be connected with other global ambassadors. I come from a disadvantaged country, South Africa, where it is not easy for one to get what they want, but they should fight in order to achieve their goals. I had a different view about people from overseas. I thought there’s no poverty. I thought they live soft lives, and they don’t have places like informal settlements. The ABTS conference really taught me that my background doesn’t define me; we all come from different backgrounds, but we are equal after all. We all encounter problems, we face challenges, but we solve them differently.

The ABTS conference taught me that it is better to share your problems with other people because they will find ways to help you and you will not have to carry the heavy load alone on your shoulders. We do not look down on each other, we help each other, we use our skills wisely and we are not judgmental towards each other. That is one of the reasons why I felt that I was in a safe space, where I felt comfortable and confident enough to speak my mind and give full participation.

I am one person who is outspoken, but I never thought I would be able to use the ability that I have in such a big platform where I get connected to people from other BTE sites. It has also taught me that my voice is powerful, it can be heard, and it has also taught me that I am indeed a GREAT leader.

It has taught me to be patient and persevere. It was not easy to sleep at 12 a.m. while I knew that I had to wake up at 6 a.m. to prepare myself for the day. It was overwhelming and enjoyable at the same time. It’s because I enjoyed what I was doing, it was good to have that little ‘stress’ in me. It was the greatest experience of my life because I have never gone through this before. The experience that I had was a good way of preparing me for future endeavors.

One of the important things was when the members of the Youth Leadership Council shared the things they have been taught throughout the year. Listening to them while they were speaking really gave me the motivation to send an application for Youth Leadership Council. As a learner, I saw that it is not a waste of time to sit down and create a study timetable. The ABTS conference also motivated me to remain consistent and stick to it at all times. It has taught me that I must maintain my mental health, and I have realized that it is very important to do physical activities as well as exercising because those will keep me fit, healthy, active, and productive.

One of my weakest points is procrastinating and finding it difficult to get rid of bad habits. I also found it hard to acquire time management skills, but as a BTE learner and student ambassador, I realized that it is more efficient for my brain, and it can remind me about the tasks and chores that I have to do. All the things that the YLC members have shared with me have been the things that I have always wanted to learn and use to rectify my mistakes.

I am glad that BTE has people like my FHI 360 ABTS program facilitators, as well as my Tswelopele facilitators and others. They are a motivation to me, and they make me to even want to achieve more. They make me work harder so that I can grow up to become the most sophisticated lady. They have taught me that opportunity comes once in a lifetime, and one should ensure that they give out their best and grab each and every opportunity that comes their way because you will never know how much it can contribute to your life. Most importantly, it can make wonders and change your life for good.


If you’re a current Year 2 or Year 3 BTE participant, you can apply to be a Student Ambassador at the 2022 ABTS! Applications are DUE by April 22. Apply Now!

Learn more about Maida in her introduction story here, and more about the Tswelopele site here.