St Benedict’s class of 2008 pupil, Dino Paulo, has won Survivor SA: Return of the Outcasts. Tribes of ordinary South Africans from all walks of life battle to outwit, outplay and outlast each other in the ultimate test of survival skills. But it was Paulo’s strategic game that ultimately outplayed the other 19 castaways in the first all-returning player season.
Paulo, a self-confessed lover of the game, admits that it’s been a lifelong ambition to walk away with the title which slipped through his fingers in season eight. ‘Playing the game was a dream come true and an experience I am truly grateful for. I am highly competitive and always play for the win. But I went into the season determined to have fun and meet epic people. I didn’t want to become obsessed with the result and miss out on the life lessons along the way. In the end I got far more out of the entire experience than I imagined possible,’ said Paulo.
Although an incredible adventure with multiple highs, plenty of personal growth and great rewards, it was not without its challenges. During the gruelling 39 days of intense gameplay on the Eastern Cape’s Sunshine Coast, Paulo lost 14kg and notched up some impressive scars.
Easily likeable and described as warm, sincere and a free spirit, Paulo said he had to strip himself down over 39 days and rebuild himself again. ‘The experience didn’t change me intrinsically, but it helped me tap into my self-confidence, which had become buried over time.’
Commenting on what it took to win Paulo said that he had to learn to put himself first and put aside all self-doubt. Playing smart, remaining determined, digging deep and fighting tooth and nail was equally important, as was having empathy, being adaptable, courageous and building social capital.
‘This experience has reminded me that it doesn’t matter what phase of life you are in, it’s OK to dream and chase those goals. I wanted this for me – it was a dream that was forged when I was just 11 years old. Survivor has reignited a fire in me to chase down dreams no matter how big or small they are.’
While at St Benedict’s, Paulo featured strongly in the drama department and was a strong contender on the sports field, which is where his competitive nature was first cultivated.
When asked what he would say to his younger self, and to the boys at St Benedict’s, he said, ‘Always be kind to others and yourself. You don’t have to be in the ‘A’ team or at the top of your class to have achieved something. Be patient and keep working towards your goals and success will follow!’
Expanding on this, he explained how his initial attempts to be on the show were declined. He first auditioned in 2013 and was rejected repeatedly. But he never gave up, and it’s this tenacity that he said he first learnt at school.
‘Despite my passion for sport – in primary school I only ever made C and D teams. It was not until high school, that I made an A team. I then went on to play provincial hockey and row in national championships. Bennies taught me that you have to be patient, make sacrifices and put yourself out there and success will follow.’
When one looks at the plethora of boys who have graduated from St Benedict’s, it’s clear that the school doesn’t produce one dimensional characters. It produces leaders and change makers, and Paulo’s win is further proof of this.
College Headmaster, Dave Jeffrey, said that St Benedict’s produces well rounded boys who accomplish great things in all walks of life and the entire Bennies community could not be prouder of Paulo’s achievement.
‘Past pupils are great ambassadors for the school and it goes without saying that Paulo is one such old boy. History says that we have stood the test of time and the evidence of our success as a school is embodied in our old boys. It’s true to say that the success we observe in Paulo, could very likely be the success that our current pupils will go on to experience, and this is our wish for them.’
A Bennies boy through and through, Paulo maintained his ties with the school and after matriculating, returned to coach rowing, hockey and soccer. His celebrity status has made him a superhero for the many pupils who look up to him and have followed his Survivor journey.
Paulo, who is getting married in October, says the R2 million prize money will go a long way towards setting up the couple’s future. His winnings will also go towards some friends and family who are struggling financially.
Not one to stop chasing down goals, Paulo’s next dream is to represent South Africa in sky diving. Training for this win happens when he’s not running his live escape business HintHunt.