SOCIOTECH BBL OFFICE: Mandisa Kukulela
I was born in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth but, since then, I have lived all over South Africa. When I was 3 years old I left the Eastern Cape and went to live with my grandparents in Durban. Then a year later I went to my dad in Johannesburg which is where I stayed for the next 4 years. When I was 8 years old my father had an accident and tragically passed away so I went to live with my mother in Pretoria. I have been in the capital ever since.
It wasn’t easy moving from one household to another. Different families have different ways of doing things and that was very unsettling. But they say that difficult times make you strong and I think it is true. I think that all that moving and change taught me to be very flexible. In my adult life, I find that I can get on with anyone. I adapt quickly to new situations. I can converse with people in many different languages. Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, Sotho, SePedi, you name it I can chat in it. So, wherever I go, I find a way to fit in.
That ability to talk to anyone in their own language and make them feel comfortable is very useful in my job. I provide office support at SocioTech so I am often the first point of contact for both facilitators and participants. At SocioTech we are a very mixed bunch of people. The facilitator staff come from so many different languages and cultures. The participants in the field are also very diverse. When you pick up the phone you never know who will be on the other end. Being able to help people in their own language makes them comfortable which is often the first step on their journey with SocioTech.
The service that SocioTech provides is so valuable and I am very proud to be a part of it. Our facilitators go into communities and train people to have hope and insight into available opportunities. Before I got this job, I was unemployed for a whole year and I know what it feels like to sit at home becoming increasingly hopeless. When you are struggling to put bread on the table you don’t have money to go to town and look for work. You sit at home and your world gets smaller and smaller. You don’t have a reason to go out so you don’t see when there are opportunities that could bring in money. Hustling requires seeing those little gaps where there is a service that can be provided. If you are at home you don’t see that. You don’t see other people making their lives work so you don’t get inspired. It just gets worse and worse. When the facilitators from SocioTech go into a community they show people that the world doesn’t have to feel like such a trap. They show people what they can do for themselves. They help people to realise that they have a lot of potential.
"Once you start thinking the SocioTech way you begin to see potential side hustles all over the place."
Working at SocioTech has changed me. It opened my eyes to what I can do. Before I worked here I wasn’t a gardener but now I am really getting into growing my own food. Especially since my 3 children love it. My older kids actually garden – when I am at work they water and weed – but the baby, she is only two. She just wants to be with the older ones. She sees the big kids digging and she takes a spoon from the kitchen and starts to ‘help’. Her idea of helping is all about getting dirty but she likes to feel part of the team.
Once you start thinking the SocioTech way you begin to see potential side hustles all over the place. I live in Leeuwfontein and last weekend I was at a local soccer tournament. In the morning the children played and, in the afternoon, the adult players took to the field. We were there the whole day and I noticed that there is nothing for people to eat. So, I think I might try selling hot dogs at the next tournament…