Freddie van der Westhuizen
Freddie van der Westhuizen
Stellenbosch, South Africa

First Course:
Cape Town, 2009

I have been stuttering for most of my speaking life. It only became a real problem in high school as I was very self-conscious about my speech. I was an overt stutterer trying very hard to hide my “broken” speech, because I hated that side of myself. My thoughts were… “Who will ever like someone who speaks like that?”

After being made fun of and teased for the first couple of years at my new high school, I actually became friends with that very “cool-group” who made fun of me, because there was something I had to offer - I was just extremely ashamed and felt guilty every time I would stutter for wasting every fluent person’s time when I tried to speak.

This went on for several years, but it did not really influence my job after school, because I went to work for my parents at their business. I would automatically move up into a management position, which was great. It was just not what I wanted to do with my life, but I did not have much of a choice as I was trapped in a comfort zone, with a too-low confidence level to follow any of my dreams.    

In November 2008, I decided to do something about my speech. I saw some videos of Gareth Gates online and what he did to get control over his stutter – there it was, the McGuire Programme! The programme which is presented by stutterers for stutterers. Who better to help a person who stutters than someone who knows the fears, feelings and perceptions of a stutterer? I contacted the Regional Director, Chris Meintjes and four months later I was on my first intensive course. The best decision I have ever made!

I have never looked back ever since. I could speak to strangers, order my own food and answer my phone with my name. My comfort zones grew and speech became stronger. I set challenges to speak on live radio interviews, do newspaper article interviews and win Toastmasters club competitions.

This programme has changed my life in many ways. I can say what I want to say and how I want to say it. Challenges are now opportunities to become a better speaker and a more self-assured person. I have the passion and the power within the programme to help others restore their hope who once, like me, had none.

Thank you to every individual on the Programme who is making others and themselves more eloquent.