Christine Taphel, 36, of Muizenberg, is the new CEO of Reconstructed Living Labs (RLabs) South Africa, an award-winning non-profit company, based in Athlone, that offers community-building training and consultancy services.
Established in 2009, the organisation claims its model has been expanded to 23 countries since then and that more than 200 000 people have accessed its programmes.
Ms Taphel grew up in Rondebosch East and attended Garlandale primary and high schools.
She says her single mother, Magdalena, was a domestic worker for most of her life and raised her two daughters from her “servant’s quarters” at the home of her employers.
Ms Taphel says she watched how hard her mother worked cleaning other people’s homes and she vowed to do things differently. She went on to start a laundry business with her mother and she also owns a two-bedroom flat, which rents on Airbnb.
Ms Taphel’s online productions, Hit@Thirty1 and Meet Me on the Couch, meanwhile promote women’s experiences and stories, and she says she is indebted to her mother who gave her the “freedom to be”.
She says she started at RLabs shortly after graduating, in 2012, from UWC with a Bachelor’s in psychology and linguistics and has since collaborated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Google, the London School of Economics and the Rockefeller Foundation to drive social and economic change.
She says she also helped to launch various RLabs projects and mentor start-ups through the RLabs programmes.
“All of these experiences have led me, to where I am now,” says Ms Taphel.
Referring to the role of RLabs, she says, “Reconstructed living is the behavioural change, the mindset of people, how people see themselves and the environment they are in; which they use as a launchpad to take up opportunities and be the custodians of changing their communities.”
Marlon Parker, who helped to found RLabs with his wife, Rene, says Ms Taphel has always been ready to take the lead.
“Even when confronted by overwhelming uncertainty, she simply said yes, then learnt what she needed to know at the time.
“This attitude and degree of influence is doubtlessly the mark of a true, top-tier leader.”