Hennie became a motivational speaker after being Paralysed from the waist as a result of a gun shot wound to the chest to steal his cell phone.
Here is his story – it may motivate you to book him to motivate your staff.
Hennie turned a dirty deal to his advantage
Dirt plays a big role in Hennie van der Merwe’s life. Partly because getting dirty is something he associates with having fun – even though he is wheelchair-bound. Partly because his guiding principle is that he’s prepared to get his hands dirty for God.
As the bullet ripped through Hennie van der Merwe’s chest and abdomen and he realised he was paralysed from the waist down, he faced up to how much more he had lost than just the cell phone the thief was after.
As he recovered in hospital years ago and took up the reins of his new life as a paraplegic, Hennie (32) realised how much more God had given him than he had before. “Life rewards your attitude, and I am living a far better life now than I was before I was shot. God has done amazing things for me and shown me a better way. I’ve realized everyone has problems, it’s how you handle them that matters.
You’re only as disabled as you make yourself.”
Addicted to change
One of the traits that has grown in Hennie is his determination. That is what helped him to persist until Absa took him on as an advisor in Electronic Banking Solutions in Bloemfontein five years after the shooting incident. Six years down the line FNB offered him the position of Client Portfolio Executive, and in the same time become Chairperson for Association for Persons with Disabilities Free State.
“I love change,” he quips. “My nickname is Hennie Verandering-Merwe.”
Driving to his clients across the Free State, the Northern Cape and North West takes Hennie between 3 500 and 6 000 kms a month in his trusty car with its “DIRTY FS” plate. “When I get to a client’s premises, no matter how inaccessible they are, somehow God always provides someone to help me get in. I’ve never had to ask a client to carry me up the stairs,” he testifies.
Hennie does find that his disability sometimes makes it difficult for people to make initial eye contact with him, but they thaw after a sentence or two. After that, they’re connecting with Hennie the person and Hennie-in-the-wheelchair is no longer an issue in their relationship. Which is just the way Hennie wants it.
Hennie is becoming quite a sought-after motivational speaker. “It’s one of the ways I can get my hands dirty for God, and I love it.”
Other ways in which Hennie gets dirty include hunting trips, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, paintball, and quad bike races – but he has modified his driving style in the races a bit of late.
What I speak about
Generally I speak about life. How I managed to overcome various obstacles in life for example the following: -
Was shot for a cell phone when I was 19, and how I got back into life and be part of the normal society be a contributor to society and the economy. As a person with a sudden disability.
Become a role player for the bank in the public sector arena as a white male with a disability,
Be an influence maker in the world of the disabled person.
Become a father and a husband.
Working through a divorce, and getting back into life after that.
Enduring and seeing through with someone close troubled with alcoholism.
Christianity through all the above.
Key messages to my audience
The above raised topics and studies about: Mindset, Attitude, Dreams, Goals, Teamwork, Inspiration, Personal Mastery, Diversity and Christianity. This bring me to my key message to my audience and that is to enjoy life, and to get the best out of life no matter what your circumstances. To never give up, there is a better side to your current circumstances. To dream big dreams no matter who you are or where you are, they may just come about. We are here on earth as individuals to make a difference, start living it. Everyone have a message, live it. You’re attitude will determine your altitude I’m living proof, no matter your race, gender, or circumstance.
When combining all above, some of my topics in the past where:
- Master your Disaster
- M.A.D – D.I.R.T.Y
- To get your hands Dirty for God
- Band aids for life
- Recipes of life
- Managing Diversity in the Workplace
- Managing Disability in the Workplace
- Disability and my Work
All my topics are customized to suit the relevant event.
Duration of my talk
This may vary from event to event. Minimum talk time is 15 min up to 1 and half hours. I’m always keeping in time that the event coordinator gives me.
How long have I done this amazing work?
I started my speaking career as a motivational/inspirational speaker in 2003. I joined National Speakers Association S.A in 2004, but resigned in 2007.
How did I become a speaker?
I realized that people like to listen to me when I speak, even before I was paralyzed. This encouraged me to do more to help people to live this life and that everything is possible if you just put your mind to it, but I never new where and when to start. I always had this dream of talking to masses of people. Then I met Claude Moller and he started to coach and mentor me into my speaking career. This then went from event to even till today.
Comments/Feedback that I received from clients
The following are some of the comments I received during my speaking career:
“ … Everyone talked to, after your presentation where unbelievable positive, especially on the way you delivered your message”
“….I strongly recommend this presentation to all other branches, this presentation will strengthen our customer service as well as attitude”
“…the value of your presentation is immeasurable, there is no instrument to measure the value, this presentation and your positive attitude, will not only benefit Absa but also in our personal life’s, this will take Absa and us to new heights”
“ Thank you very much for your presentation Hennie, You gave my personnel a lot of life essentials to think about, you are really talented with this, and must keep on using this talent to influence more to appreciate life like you….”
My references of clients
- FNB Branches & Events
- Absa Branches & Events
- Auto & General
- Association for Persons with Disabilities FS
- FS Government
- EC Legislature
- High Schools
- Primary Schools
- Pre Primary Schools
- F.S Mental Health Institute
- Some smaller associations