BBL PARTICIPANT: Brenda Msiza, Machipe, Mpumalanga
In a Nutshell
Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Brenda Msiza has gained the skills to provide food for her family. She has also developed an understanding of entrepreneurship that she is successfully putting into practice. She has also taught her teenage daughter many of these skills.
I have no previous experience with gardening and until recently I had not tried to start a business. I am by nature and experience a community activist. I like helping people (especially children and young adults) and I am committed to supporting development in this area.
There are so many challenges in this community. Some of the main problems are poverty, unemployment, water shortages, load shedding and a lack of consistent support from teachers within the schools. We tell children that school can be a way out of poverty, but then our education system doesn’t give them the tools to turn that into a reality. They don’t know what options are out there. Even when they do have a sense of what they want to do, the quality of the schooling they get lets them down. That makes them depressed and depressed children don’t study. So, it goes around and around, getting worse and worse.
It is not just the children who feel that way. As an adult it sometimes feels like you are stuck in a dark hole of hopelessness. There are two ways of dealing with that feeling. The first is to give up and do nothing. The second way of tackling problems is to recognize that things are really hard, and use that understanding to push forward. To say: “I must improve things because we can’t go on like this.”
It is difficult to do that alone, which is why having SocioTech in this community has been such a gift from God. SocioTech provides information, skills, and that can be used to start change and create optimism. With hope, information and hard work all things are possible. The people from SocioTech, Mr Kwena and Mr Charles, they came to us with the attitude that if you are a human being, you have God-given talents and you can do many things. You can learn to plant. You can feed yourself. You can be proud of that first step on a journey towards success.
Like I said, I am not a garden person. I had no idea about planting when I first met Mr Kwena, but I have learnt to plant. It is not easy work. When I first started, I was amazed by how tiring it was. Really exhausting! But it is like anything, if you do it for a while you get used to it. You get strong and then when you start to see results, those results they make you feel even stronger. Strength builds strength.
That garden of mine has changed everything in the most wonderful ways. In December we ate really well as a family, and I also sold a lot of vegetables. The money that came out of that garden meant that we could buy school uniforms. And then, you know the way school is, they always add on extra, unexpected expenses. When the school term started, the teachers suddenly announced that the kids all needed a new calculator. In a normal year that would have been a big problem but this year, because I had saved from the garden sales, I could buy my daughter what she needed without stress.
The MyFood garden work was just the beginning. I am really excited by what I learnt in the MyFuture training. I have started a stall selling sweets, vetkoek, Simba and so on. Each morning I get up and go to the school gates to sell to the children. I also bought some lovely perfumes and I am selling those to the teachers – Charles taught us that it is important to have different lines to suit different sorts of customers. I am a mobile business so, after school, I move my stock and set up in my front yard so that people passing by can get snacks.
I have found the money management training really valuable. It makes me happy knowing that I can manage money, budget, save. There is such a sense of freedom that comes from being in control of your money. There is freedom from fear. Like I said, with the calculator issue, it is wonderful feeling that when kids need something, you can provide it. Even just knowing that if you need money for bread, there is money for bread. Knowing that if there was a sudden emergency – for instance if someone got sick – there would be money to deal with it. All that makes me feel safe and it makes my family feel safe. Children need that sense of safety and freedom from worries.
They taught us about Phinda-Phinda where you pass on your knowledge and in my case, it is my child who has learnt through me. My daughter is in grade 7 and through watching me she is already starting to think like an entrepreneur. She saw a gap in the sweet selling business that I was running at the school gate. She said: “Mummy, you can only sell outside the gate, before and after school but I can sell inside during school.” So, that is what she is doing. She is saving the money she makes. She works knows how to work out profit.
Basically, I have been Phinda Phinda-ing my own child. She sees business and money management as a way of life now. We are a MyFuture family now. Last week she said to me: “When the child support grant comes, I take R260 and set it aside as savings and then let’s use the rest to grow this business of ours.” She won’t go to salon anymore. She wants to do her hair at home. No more fancy hair styles. She is taking charge. She is seeing the future. I am so proud of her.