Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Humanitarian Project: A Student's Perspective

The Union of Muslim Students’ Association’s national Humanitarian Project 2014*, in conjunction with SANZAF, was designed around the concept of “Waste into Wealth.” The project aims to create sustainable entrepreneurship within communities, as well as educating, encouraging and empowering both students and disadvantaged communities to turn waste into wealth. This past week Tuesday, I met with five emigrant entrepreneurs that have been a part of SANZAF’s Waste into Wealth Project, to interview them about the impact the initiative has had on their lives. This is their story.

 Said Ally is a 20 year old Tanzanian national that immigrated to South Africa three years ago. After staying with his brother for two years whilst trying to find employment, Said was left homeless when his brother returned to Tanzania. Desperate and alone, he was directed to SANZAF’s offices by a friend that had informed him of the Waste into Wealth Project. It was at SANZAF that Said was able to purchase second-hand clothes, some of which he would keep for himself and most of which he would resell at the Goods Market. The income he received from selling the clothes assisted in paying his rent, groceries and other expenses. A portion of his income is also sent back home to Tanzania to support his parents and three younger siblings. The programme has assisted Said with a trickle of income where before he had none – “trickle” being the operative word, as all of the money he receives from reselling the clothes is spent on necessities; there is none remaining at the end of each month to pool into a sustainable dam. Said is thankful for the SANZAF programme, but his ultimate dream is to run his own business, with a full time stall and sufficient stock. When asked if he would have the necessary skills to run a business by himself, Said answered positively, affirming that “business is in my blood. I know how to run a business. I just need a chance.”

The second entrepreneur I interviewed brought along her 2 year old son, a tiny Tanzanian devil that complemented my notes by dribbling, drooling and doodling all over them. His mother, Sania Hassen, a 32 year old Tanzanian national with deep brown eyes, sadly related her story to me with a weathered smile. Sania immigrated to South Africa in 2000 with her husband – when asked why she left Tanzania, she simply replied “There was nothing there.” Whilst her husband worked at Scooters as a delivery man, Sania stayed at home and brought up her two (now three) lovely boys. Life suddenly took a turn for the worse when she and her husband divorced. Sania, a single mother now, found that she was unable to support herself and her children any longer. A friend informed her of SANZAF’s Waste into Wealth programme, and after visiting their offices and purchasing a bundle of second-hand clothes, Sania was able to resell the clothes at a profit and earn some income. This alleviated some of the financial burden placed upon her by her circumstances - however, just like Said, Sania spends almost all her income on necessities such as food, school fees and rent. Once again, there is very little to no money left over at the end of the month for her to save, and there is no scope for her to expand her second-hand clothes-selling business. She complained that some weeks SANZAF doesn’t even have clothes to sell to her. When asked what her dream situation would be, Sania replied “To own my own business. I have been selling clothes for a very long time. If I just had a chance to open a business, I wouldn’t need to go back to SANZAF anymore.”

 I interviewed three more entrepreneurs - Fatima Ndlovu, a 58 year old grandmother from Maputo, Hafsa Muhorakeye, a 32 year old immigrant from Rwanda, and Fatima Matolweni, a 28 year old mother from Tanzania. All of their stories were uncannily similar to Said’s and Sania’s. They had all been dependent on someone else for financial subsistence, and once that relationship or that source of income dried up, they were left desperate, distressed, and with children to support. They were all introduced to SANZAF via a third party, and were able to make some money in order to pay for basic necessities through purchasing second-hand clothes and reselling them. The project is a success in that it has provided those with previously no source of income whatsoever, with an outlet to make money and therefore pay off their expenses to survive. Alas, that self-same avenue is the most potent shortcoming of the programme itself – these people are now simply surviving, but not thriving. The intention of the project was to create sustainable entrepreneurship within communities – whilst entrepreneurship was certainly been created, it is hardly sustainable. The participants have to purchase second-hand clothes from SANZAF, which eats into a huge chunk of their base capital each week. Sometimes, clothes are not even available for them to purchase. Finally, all of the interviewees said that their dream was to own and be in charge of their own business. They are adamant that they have the skills to be able to run the business, based on years of experience. The setting up of a business stall, with an initial outlay of stock and petty cash, if run managed successfully and with the involvement and participation of students, would be ideal in achieving both the dreams and goals of the Project and its participants.

Written by Muhammed Ismail Bulbulia

Muhammed Ismail Bulbulia (aka MiB) is a freelance writer and activist. He writes short stories, one-act plays, grocery lists; you name it. When he's not bleeding onto the blank page, you can find him either complaining about studying Accounting at Wits or callousing his fingers on the guitar.

*The Humanitarian Project is the national flagship project of MSA Union. This project builds on last year’s project where a second hand clothing collection was conducted on some South African campuses and communities and then given to identified entrepreneurs to sell. This year we incorporate this aspect of empowerment of entrepreneurs under a broad banner of ‘Repurposing Waste’ projects. This has arisen from a collaboration between the Union of Muslim Students' Association and its initiative Green Deen South Africa, in conjunction with SANZAF.The project is aimed at creating mass student involvement while educating and empowering both students and disadvantaged communities to turn waste into wealth. 'Repurposing Waste' was the theme for this week and included activities and awareness around recycling, reuse, upcycling, education and empowerment. We are always open to suggestions and critique, so please feel free to give us suggestions on how to improve the project

SANZAF Johannesburg collects clothing throughout the year if you would like to contribute to this collection you can drop it off at:
39 Mint Road, Fordsburg
PO Box 42565, Fordsburg, 2033
T: 011 834 2544

1 comment:

  1. SANZAF Johannesburg collects clothing throughout the year if you want to contribute to this collection you can drop it off at:

    39 Mint Road, Fordsburg
    PO Box 42565, Fordsburg, 2033
    T: (011) 834 2544