Ma Magriet sewing with a young friend. Photo by Art Cloete

Savings help make being 84 more comfortable

Magriet van Wyk’s dream is to have an indoor toilet.

From Kamieskroon, Namaqualand, “Ma Magriet” as she’s known has lived a hard life, raising 12 children mostly single-handed because her husband was a migrant worker. Kamieskroon is a farming community with few employment opportunities.

“I was born on the third of September, 1933 and I’m 84 years old,” she says. Her eyes have a gentle strength that comes with wisdom gained from living too many years. Now her body is giving up on her and she wills it to walk with a cane. It’s not always easy to move from one room to another but there is a stubbornness of soul here, one refusing to give up on her dream of improving her house.

It is this tenacity of spirit and the dream of one day having a bathroom connected to her room that made her join a Save Act savings group called Big Dreams in Kamieskroon in 2016. “Ï’m growing older and it’s difficult to get to the toilet to relieve myself. Especially in the evenings when I have to use the bucket.”

Ma Magriet lives in a semi-detached municipal house with an outside toilet built in the 1960’s. “We lived on that hill with the tall tree and were forcibly removed and put here,” she says. “I didn’t want to stay here. I told my husband, I don’t want this house, I want my own house, but we were poor and had to stay here.”

“You are never too old to learn,” she tells me.  “There were months when I didn’t know where I would get the money to save. I only have the pension and food is so expensive.  I told myself I’m not going to save again, it’s too hard. But then I slept on it and I thought, ‘Magriet, look at the money that you now have because of saving’.”

Ma Magriet received more than R2 000 when Big Dreams had their first share-out at their year-end cycle in March.  “I bought cement and laid my foundation for the toilet. I also bought a cistern, a black iron pot and material to make “kappies”(bonnets) and “lappieskombers”([patch blankets) to sell, and I loaned R500 to a family member. I did a lot with my money.”

Her voice becomes younger and she is filled with laughter as she relates her small victories. I let her do all the talking out of respect for a soul that has endured so much and is still standing — and out of fear that she might lose track of her thoughts. As if reading my mind she says, “My mind is still very sharp and I’m accurate.”

To prove that, she shows me her small black book where she writes down every cent that she spends. She takes us into her bedroom and with wide open arms shows us the renovations that she has in mind. “We must start (saving) again so that I can build my toilet before I die,” she says.

Ma Magriet is a rarity and a teacher to many.  Though age has made her vulnerable and her body frail, her soul still soars with big dreams — dreams made possible with small savings.

Esther Katts is a SaveAct field officer

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