While Phakamani’s operational focus is microenterprise development, the real impact of Phakamani’s work is about meeting basic human needs. Stories like the ones below inspire us every day as we work diligently to grow the organisation and reach ever greater numbers of people.
Christina Mafuwane was one of millions of people in South Africa who made a living selling fruits and vegetables. It is common to see people standing on the highways holding up corn, avocados or oranges for sale. The luckier vendors have makeshift stalls on the main roads in the villages. With Phakamani’s help, Christina found a way to make this safer and more profitable, by selling staple tomatoes and onions to the school kitchens in her area.
To realize her dream, Christina had to guarantee fresh vegetables on a regular schedule. Her first Phakamani loan enabled her to get started. She was able to buy stock in larger quantities and she learned to turn over her cash several times in a month for greater profit. Subsequent loans enabled her to travel farther, where prices were cheaper. Christina also has a small stall where she sells to local people “mainly at pension time.” She is able to pay back her loans and is now saving about R1000 a month (USD 100) towards her child’s university programme.
Mantombi Mbele runs a small nursery for children in her village of Nkhaba but this has never provided enough income for her family. When Phakamani came along, Mantombi saw the opportunity to supplement her income through a unique business idea: the creation of beautiful, hand-made, tribal outfits that could be hired out for important celebrations and events.
Mantombi’s community love to celebrate their Swazi culture. It is uneconomical, however, for most people to buy good-quality tribal outfits, especially for children, since they are worn only once or twice a year. Mantombe had a sewing machine, so she and a few talented friends used Phakamani loans to pay for transport and materials from Nelspruit, the regional capital. They went to work, and their idea proved very popular. “Now, people come from many villages to hire our tribal-wear. They see us wearing it and they like the quality, so word spreads.”
Thanks to this business, Mantombi says, she was able to buy beds for her children, as well as new clothes and better food.
After Constance Chiloane’s husband was in a car accident, she knew she would have to support her family on her own. With few job prospects in Kabokweni, she turned to Phakamani Foundation. Constance opened a vegetable and fruit stall, with an initial loan of R700. It helped her get started and pay for stock.
Within a few loan and training cycles, Constance learned how to diversify and turn over her stock more quickly to increase profits. Her loans allowed her to afford an extra taxi ride to the market each week, to ensure fresher spinach, which also brought in more customers for all products. She then added home-made cushions and curtains to her stall, using her loans to buy material. Constance’s family eats much better now. Her older children have able to finish school and she has much hope for them.
Sesnet Gumede was selling her wares in her little road-side spaza shop when, in 2005, a group of armed men came and robbed her of all the money she’d saved from the day’s trading. Understandably, she became very nervous working without any protection in her shop but she had to carry on. Three years later, in 2008, Sesnet’s husband passed away, leaving her to fend for herself and her young son. She felt defenceless and she struggled to make ends meet.
When Phakamani arrived it was the opportunity for Sesnet to improve her business, generate more income, and also do something about her feelings of defencelessness. As the money from the business micro-loans began to work, she set about adding strong bars to the opening of her shop and burglar bars on the windows of her house. The shame of trying to pay back food when she had no money became a thing of the past. She dreams about sending her son to university and getting him a driver’s license. For herself, she wants to extend her spaza shop and increase the number and variety of the products she sells.
Maria Mthimkhulu’s family of six lived in a three-room home when she first encountered Phakamani. This included the garage, which had been converted into a workspace for her “broken” sewing business. After Phakamani gave her a loan, new life was injected into her business. Able to buy materials, she made comforters, curtains, church and school uniforms, and more. Her unemployed husband helped her transport her wares to market in their rusty old van, to Witbank, some 200 km away.
Within a year, Maria had built another garage for her workshop, allowing her four children to move out of the bedroom they shared with their parents. Now, if you stand outside the house you see the foundations for an entirely new home, made of better materials, which they will build brick by brick. Mrs Mthimkhulu is no longer afraid for the future. Proudly, she shows off he products. She can now provide for her whole family because Phakamani gave her the opportunity.