My direction in life was clear when I was born into an Afrikaans-speaking family as the eldest daughter with two sisters and a brother. Early on I assumed the role of negotiator, which prepared me for a career in Psychology. My natural curiosity set the scene for my development as a researcher and academic. (My mother recalls that one of my first words was “why?”). I grew up in a beautiful mountainous town in South Africa with the magnificent sunsets which served as inspiration to write poems and short stories.
Vera means “truth” and this describes the way in which I have always preferred to relate to the people around me and to life.
My interest in community psychology developed from my father’s involvement in and my early exposure to community development projects. Events I witnessed while growing up made me aware of the total disregard for humans and the appalling exclusion of and discrimination against people on racial grounds during Apartheid. This initially attracted me to community psychology to question unfair practices – to extend my boundaries and to promote the well-being of others. I am particularly interested in the plight of older persons, and therefore in the field of gerontology and intergenerational relations, because in the South African context many find themselves marginalised, excluded and poor. To conduct research into relational and personal experiences which are often hard to describe,
I have developed a visual data-collection method, called the Mmogo-method®, which enables people to express their experiences in a group setting.
I began preparing for my formal career in 1981 at the North-West University (NWU) and moved to the University of Pretoria to complete undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Psychology. I completed my DPhil at the University of Pretoria where I was appointed as a junior lecturer in 1995. I was offered a position as senior lecturer at NWU and returned there in 2004 after many years. I am currently a research professor affiliated with OPTENTIA Research Focus Area at the Vaal Campus of the North-West University. The most rewarding aspect of my academic career has been to share it with co-learners (students and colleagues). In every interaction with the more than 70 students I have supervised, I have continued to learn and have been privileged to observe them becoming confident masters of their subjects.