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Although Carina van Zyl plans to retire from the City of Joburg at the end of February 2020 after almost 30 years of service, her passion to alleviate poverty will propel her to serve humanity until “I am physically not fit enough to do the work”.

Born in Bloemfontein, Free State, Carina joined the then Department of Health and Social Services in the Midrand Town Council in 1991.

“My first office was in Rabie Ridge in a container and we started working in Ivory Park when it was still an informal settlement,” she says.

When Midrand was incorporated into the City of Johannesburg 20 years ago, Carina worked in Diepsloot as part of Region A.

“The one thing that kept me going all these years is my passion for people in poorer communities. Development is so dynamic that every day brings a new challenge,” she says.

Carina is the Sub-Unit Head for the Women and Elderly Directorate within the Social Development Department. Her unit is charged with steering all social programmes for women and the elderly.

She started her work within Social Development as a Regional Manager in Region 1 and 2 (in the early days of CoJ), then moved to the Inner City as Regional Manager. “I was then promoted to Deputy Director and managed all the Social Development programmes in all the regions,” she explains.

She was placed in her current position in 2013.

Carina holds two Master’s degrees from the University of Pretoria; one in Social Work obtained in 1988 and another in Public Administration, which she achieved cum laude 10 years later.

“There is nothing more satisfying than to see the gratitude of those you assisted. My life is among those living in poverty and need a hand to find hope and a future again,” she explains.

Carina has been married to a pastor, Neels, for 42 years and they have two children and three grandchildren. She’s also a qualified organist and has played the pipe organ in church since she was in Grade 11.

“The little spare time I have, I spend with my grandchildren and looking after my mother of 92 years,” she says.

Once retired, she’ll consult for Community Development and work with the youth in high schools in Olievenhoutbosch and do trauma counselling and spoil her grandchildren.

In her almost 30-year career in the City, Carina developed the model for Social Development at Local Authority Level and was awarded the Van Schaik prize for the best research.

Carina also managed the process for the development of the City’s Women Empowerment Policy and the establishment of Women Empowerment Sites in all the regions. “My legacy will be the Young Women’s Programme that I started in 2014. Over 1 800 young women completed the programme and could find their rightful place in society and could economically provide for the family,” she says.