Special Talking Point report by Angelena Boden
It seems that last month’s Talking Point, ‘On the Scrapheap at 50 plus’ has fired up a number of readers.
One email in particular attracted my attention.
‘What have you done about finding a new sense of purpose?’ The answer? I didn’t find it. It found me during a recent trip to Cape Town to visit my daughter.
My plan was to soak up the sights of this stunning city, indulge in some award winning wines and to enjoy a bit of R and R.
All that was fantastic but for me the most memorable and satisfying part of the trip was meeting an enterprising young man by the name of Mzukisi Lembeni.
Mzu has worked his way up from a low level hotel job to become qualified in tour operation management.
His several years of experience on the ubiquitous sightseeing buses and the Two Oceans Aquarium as well as his business training put him in the ideal position to become an entrepreneur.
Imizamo Yethu Tours was started with just R65 ( (£3.64). It now attracts visitors from all over the world wanting to fully engage with the community he is trying very hard to help through job creation and awareness raising.
‘I used all the money I had to print some brochures and walked miles dropping them off at hotels and attractions in Cape Town.
‘Within a few days I had a call from some visitors wanting a tour.
‘That gave me the confidence to carry on.’
We decided to try out his tour of Khayelitsha, a township of 2.5 million people where unemployment is currently at 75 per cent.
Instead of ogling people through a coach window, we went in a minibus and enjoyed a guided walk through the streets.
A family invited us into their small home, where the hardships of life in the township were explained.
Despite the struggle for survival, people smiled, laughed and offered us a warmth of welcome I have not experienced for a long time.
A rousing gospel service in the tent, which served as a church, a hike up Lookout Hill to view the different areas of the township and a lunch in the bustling market place was an assault on the senses but at all times we received nothing but infectious smiles and friendship.
No one hassled us for money.
Mzu introduced us to a local social entrepreneur who trains teenage boys to build bicycles from all the donated parts he stores in a dilapidated shack.
‘It’s my way of helping to reduce crime in this neighbourhood and to give the boys a skill they can use’.
Mzu plans to use the bicycles to offer cycling tours around the township but it will take time.
‘Everything takes time,’ he sighs ‘but if you have the passion, the vision and a sense of purpose to help your people then the hard work is worth it. His optimism is so infectious I asked him how I could get involved.
‘We need a training centre so people can learn how to look after customers so they can apply for the jobs in the hotels and bars and work like I did in the beginning. We need old computers so the boys can learn skills. We need a place for a homework club and … well all sorts of things.”
Now I know the Niall Mellon Township Trust has built over 40,000 houses in the township but I could only offer a shipping container and maybe some disused computers and furniture.
Tentatively I suggested this to Mzu. His face positively lit up.
‘You can’t imagine the difference it would make to this community. I want to help people get jobs but they need skills. Will you come back and train the trainers to give them the skills?’
Well, what could I say?
Not only are we going to raise the money for the training and skills centre but Fifteen Minute Trainer is supplying all the training materials at no cost and helping to support the training of the volunteers who will offer their services.
We will also be supporting Mzu as he grows his business.
A sense of purpose won’t come looking for you. You have to be open minded and think outside the proverbial box. If it feels right to you, then it is right and turn a deaf ear to your critics.
Oh, and you don’t have to wait until you are 50!
If you would like to get involved in this project please contact:-