The young teaching the younger

by Mihle Mapoma
20 October 2023
20 October 2023

Athi Bhungalipheli, 32, started saving with SaveAct in 2017. From that day on, she has done nothing but soar, and teach the youth within her community how to do the same. She used her first share-out to buy egg-laying chickens; with the next, she was able to get a tap installed in her yard. She then bought a fence and its accessories with the following one, because she has livestock. As livestock theft is rife, this purchase was crucial to the growth of her herd.

Ms Bhungalipheli, who loves sewing, also used her savings to buy a second sewing machine. The first had been purchased before joining SaveAct, and another machine was needed to help grow the business. She learned from attending SaveAct trainings, the importance of getting your business registered, which she did. “I’m a person who likes to work for themselves. Jobs are scarce, but if you work for yourself, there is plenty to do.”

At the time of being interviewed, Ms Bhungalipheli mostly sewed according to orders from clients. Her clientele is vast, and plentiful, and so she had already sold much of what she had made that month, even outside of specific orders made. “My problem with this business is the material. I always run out of material” she said. Ms Bhungalipheli sought help from the Department of Agriculture, which, after visiting her workspace and seeing how she operates her growing business, promised her materials and industrial machinery. The Department of Agriculture weren’t the only ones to see how investing in Ms Bhungalipheli would be fruitful to not only her, but the youth around her. Her local municipality also promised her sewing machines, particularly because she teaches sewing to youth in her community. Those promises have since been fulfilled. Now that she has better machinery and more materials, she can stay stocked up on all the clothes people love from her, but wouldn’t necessarily have the time or wherewithal to order – such as kaftans and pinafores.

With regards to the youth that Ms Bhungalipheli teaches – at the time of our visit, she had a new set of four students. Some help her with the sewing of the general clothing items. She also affords them the opportunity to learn more than what only she can teach them; by putting them forward for trainings provided by her local municipality for example; or leadership opportunities to stand on their own, by leaving the business to them when she attends SaveAct trainings, sometimes for days at a time.

She also has a successful agricultural business, as she has two gardens in her homestead. In these gardens she plants vegetables such as cabbage and spinach, depending on the season. She learnt from agroecological training attended via SaveAct, that rotating what one plants, is good for soil fertility. She sells her vegetables to the primary school nearby, which buys in bulk, and to people in her own community and others surrounding it. She also sells chickens to these communities, but “the garden is the most successful”.

In keeping in theme with teaching youth what she knows, she has two young men who help her with the garden, the livestock and her ceiling board business. Ms Bhungalipheli did a training course on how to install ceiling boards, then came back to her community and taught the two young men what she had learned. At first, she took them with her to job sites, from start to finish. However, “now I send them off to go do the beginning stages of measurements, client consultation and the like, and I join them later,” she laughed. The three of them then work together to fit the ceilings for each client. “With the youth…I give them what I have. I teach them all I know, so that they can also learn to do things on their own,” she said.

“I’ve learned so much from SaveAct. I’ve not only learned how to save, but because I attended training, I have also gained a multitude of knowledge. I’ve attended trainings such as ABCD (Asset Based Community Development), agri-enterprise development and nursery training (through Siyazisiza Trust). I also now know how to budget, something I didn’t know before,” she said excitedly. “SaveAct helps us grow. It helps us learn so much, and gain new skillsets.”

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