Angel Vendeline Namshali
‘The best thing about my job are the guests’, says Angel, ‘I love hosting – hospitality is in my heart. And I love talking to guests, learning from them; I’m not afraid to speak to them in my broken English because I ask them to correct me if I say something wrong. My dad said to me, ‘if you speak English, just speak, don’t be afraid, the more mistakes you make, the more you will learn’.
Angel Vendeline Namshali is the manager of Asilia’s Dunia Camp in the Serengeti. Her affection for – and interest in – her guests is evident in her friendly, open approach and her inherent passion for learning doesn’t just manifest in her bid to understand better the nuts, bolts and nuances of another language, it’s what has sustained her in an industry that is notoriously tough for women, especially one without a formal training in hospitality.
‘I never went to university’, explains Angel, ‘I would have loved to. I did well at school, I won a scholarship to secondary school and was selected to go to university but my parents couldn’t afford it. We were six children. My dad sold a cow to try to raise the funds to send me to University in Dar es Salaam but he needed to pay my younger brothers’ school fees too. There was no money left over to send me to university; I cried for weeks.’
Without a qualification, but with the support of a family who recognised her energy and her ability, Angel secured a job in a hotel where she was put in charge of sorting out the linen cupboard. It wasn’t long before her supervisors spotted her drive and she was shuttled upwards through a position in reception and then into management roles. She’s been with Asilia for three years now and is the first Tanzanian woman working for Asilia as a camp manager in the Serengeti.
Angel had never been to the bush before she began working in tourism. But she wasn’t afraid, little phases her. She recounts a story about a guest summoning camp staff in alarm when she heard elephants close to her tent. Angel responded but discovered it wasn’t the elephants that were in closest proximity to the client’s tent, it was a lioness, calmly exploring the bush, feet from the rear of the tent. Angel laughs as she describes how she didn’t know which was more alarming, the lioness or the fact the guest was adamant she wasn’t going to open her tent for anyone, even Angel! Close encounters with wildlife haven’t put Angel off, ‘I love working in the bush’ she laughs, ‘It’s such a harmonious environment to live in and I never get tired of the game; we have a family of warthog that comes into camp to graze every day, I never, ever get bored of seeing them, I enjoy seeing them today and I’ll enjoy seeing them tomorrow. And I never feel frightened.’
‘Hotel work is sometimes regarded poorly in African communities’, says Angel, ‘especially as a place for women to work, but that’s because people don’t understand what the roles involve and have no experience of high-end establishments. My community was very dismissive of my choice in the beginning. They’re not laughing anymore; now my parents and my community look to me as a mirror and I am constantly asked to give advice to young girls. I tell them all, make sure you finish school, don’t let men take advantage of your bodies. Sometimes I use my own money to reward girls who have passed an exam well.’
Women in Africa remain at the mercy of a patriarchal society. it’s not as easy for them to access the same opportunities as men – sometimes their educations are less complete, or completely absent, their destined roles are still considered to be in the home, caring for husbands, children, ageing parents and a lack of belief in their abilities to venture much beyond these perpetuate a lack of confidence; there aren’t as many female trailblazers as there are in the West.
Angel is a testament to the fact that given the right chances, with the appropriate support, women can succeed. She is the manager of a pioneering, almost entirely female staff camp who are smashing through a glass ceiling and becoming role models in their communities, delighting our guests along the way.
Watch a short video of the interview here: