We recently met up with one of Masiphumelele’s most famous residents, professional cyclist, Songezo Jim. Songezo has established a cycling academy in Masiphumelele and we are pleased to be able to help out by providing space for his bicycles at our premises at Chasmay Road campus. A couple of years ago Songezo was lucky enough to have received a donation of fifteen bicycles from a Dutch organisation and that has kick started his academy. You may have seen him leading groups of Masiphumelele youths out on the roads of the peninsula during the summer weekends.
Songezo has had an interesting journey to where he is at the moment, and provides an excellent role model to the youngsters of his home town. He was born in Umtata, Eastern Cape, where he had dreams of being the next Lucas Radebe (former Bafana Bafana captain) rather than a professional cyclist. It was when he moved to Masiphumelele in 2005 that he first developed an interest in cycling after he watched the Cape Argus as the racers passed the township on the way back into Cape Town. He could not ride a bicycle at the time, but he joined the Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy, a non-profit organisation that uses cycling to provide young people from disadvantaged communities with the opportunities they need to turn their lives around. A few years later and he was riding the Argus himself. He turned professional in 2013, moved up country to Johannesburg and went on to make history by being the first black South African to compete in a World Tour event. As a rider for MTN-Qhubeka (now Dimension Data) he finished the Vuelta a Espana in 2015.
Sadly he was later released by Dimension Data and finds himself ending 2016 without a team to ride for. The upside is that he has been able to return to Masi and focus on the development of his academy. With around 40 youngsters keen to participate he is having to take groups out in shifts using the 15 bicycles we currently have stored at the campus. While he is working on finding a new team to race his current need is for more bicycles, more helmets, and more spare parts. If you can help Songezo please contact him via facebook or twitter. Alternatively please visit his Back-a-Buddy campaign page to leave a donation.
Last weekend we celebrated the graduation of another cohort of adult learners on the Masicorp / Evangeline Ministries life skills course in Masiphumelele. It has been another successful six months, with 15 ladies – and one man – from the community upskilled in English and computing as well as learning practical sewing skills. The event was again excellently led by Wendy Ryan, with a inspirational speech from Masicorp director Carol Hanks.
Carol praised the graduates with A.A. Milnes famous quote “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think,” – expertly delivered in isiXhosa.
Here are a selection of the wonderful creations on show – all pictures courtesy of Louise de Waal from Green Girls in Africa.
As usual every graduate was rewarded with their own sewing machine to take away and continue their creative work.
In addition to promoting educational opportunities for the people of Masiphumelele, Masicorp has also provided ongoing business support to a number of entrepreneurs from the community. Examples include the long established Nonny’s Bakery and Nondeyebo Art, who now sell to tourists from their stall at the V&A Watershed.
In an attempt to formalize this part of our work and to increase the number of people that can be helped, we have established a Business Hub at our offices in the Chasmay Road campus. The Hub is staffed by a group of local business people who are volunteering their time and business expertise to help get new business ideas from the community up and running. Establishing a successful business is tough at the best of times, so the support offered from this initiative is likely to be critical to success on the ground.
The Business Hub meets formally every Wednesday, but potential entrepreneurs can call in to the offices any time to leave details of the business ideas they would like to be supported. The Hub can provide administrative support, access to IT services for existing businesses and can also match entrepreneurs with appropriate education programmes. We have contacts within the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda), and can introduce community entrepreneurs to the support they provide.
Currently the Business Hub is talking to members of the community who have come forward with possible business ideas. We would like to talk to as many new entrepreneurs as possible and to discuss and assist with their business plans, marketing ideas and possibly even assist with loan funding where a strong potential for success is identified. The Hub volunteers can undertake SWOT analysis of new and existing businesses and help members of the community match their skills and services to those that are needed within the community.
Alongside support for new businesses we are also assisting existing businesses to grow with financial and administrative support. Many visitors to Masiphumelele will meet Ndileka Biyo and often purchase clothing from her Baby Shweshwe range. We recently helped Ndileka get her business online and have introduced her to many new selling opportunities at local markets. She has also received assistance in developing her new logo for Biyo Designs, which will cover her full range of products.
In addition Nonny has expanded her business to cater for tourists and other visitors to Masiphumelele, and she now provides delicious home cooked meals from her home. This has proven particularly popular with the visitors on AWOL Tours cycle tours of Masiphumelele. With a little help from the Business Hub team she is also considering the production of a cook book, to share her traditional recipes with a wider audience.
As we identify more local entrepreneurs and help to grow the existing businesses we support it is expected there will be many interesting stories to tell. Watch this space for more updates on this rapidly developing part of our work in the community.
The phrase “High Fashion and High Hopes” was the order of the day last Saturday as the latest group of graduates from the Evangeline Ministries life skills programme celebrated graduation with a fashion show. The programme, which is part funded by Masicorp, has run successfully for over five years and can boast more than 100 graduates. Sixteen more graduates from within the Masiphumelele community can now be added to that number.
As the ceremony started the new graduates danced their way into the graduation hall – kindly provided by our friends at Living Hope. Each graduate was wearing a selection of the clothing they had made during the previous six months, and they took it in turns to show off their outfits. There was a real mixtures of styles on show – from professional business suits to colourful dresses, and for the first time two male students presenting shirts (and a colourful hat).
The life skills programme has three components to it – computer training, English literacy and sewing skills. Each graduate received a certificate of competency in all three areas as well as a brand new sewing machine, from which they can continue to work from home and hopefully earn a future income.
For the programme manager, Wendy Ryan, it was a successful end to another six-month cycle, but only a brief respite in her work. With over 60 applications received already it will be straight back to work selecting the next group of students for the second half of 2015. We wish her well and express our congratulation to each of the new graduates.
Back in November 2014 we were delighted to report on a formal partnership with AWOL Tours, who run bicycle based tours of Masiphumelele from the BEN bicycle shop in the township. AWOL generously agreed to donate R50 per paying guest on each of their tours, which is used to support early childhood development projects in the community. After a successful summer season we are pleased to report the donations received have exceeded R18,000.
The funds are used to support our Seedlings program that provides support to the pre-school children in the community, including the school visited on the cycle tour. In particular, the funds received so far have been used to support our “stay & play” initiative. The scheme is a mother & toddler club held at the Masiphumelele library. The funds from AWOL provide craft materials, equipment and the costs of support staff from the community.
As part of the tour, AWOL guests also visit some of Masicorp’s business entrepreneurs including Nonny’s bakery for refreshments and Ndileka Biyo at the Pink house for souvenirs.
Our relationship was further strengthened when AWOL recently employed Zizipho Silwana as a sales consultant at their office in the V&A Waterfront. Zizi is a graduate from our bursary program and recently completed her studies in HR Management at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Zizi is seen here with her mother at her graduation ceremony in March of this year.
Hopefully it is a great help to have a resident of Masiphumelele to talk to potential clients at the offices. If you have not done the tour yourself yet why not call in for a chat with Zizi and book a place? There are more details on the cycle tour – and online availability checks – on the AWOL website HERE.
We look forward to continuing our partnership with AWOL and our thanks to all the tourists who take time to visit Masiphumelele on their travels through South Africa.
You will have seen Ndileka Biyo if you have watched the video “Ulibali – This is Our Story” (available for viewing on the Maiscorp web site HERE). Ndileka’s fashion design business is features as one of our longest standing business entrepreneurship projects. Earlier this year we took some promotional pictures of the clothing she has produced for her Baby Shweshwe range, which we are delighted to showcase here.
Ndileka inherited her sewing skills from her mother and was forced to use them to support her family when her husband became unemployed in 1988. She found her lack of a formal education was holding back her business and took herself back to high school, where she passed Matric in 1995. She later studied fashion design at the Cape University of Technology, graduating with a Diploma in Fashion Design in 2003.
Ndileka moved to Masiphumelele in 2006 where she made clothes for the local community and volunteered at the library, which was where she met Masicorp. With financial and mentoring help she founded her own business “Shweshwe” in 2008. Shweshwe is a printed dyed cotton fabric that is widely used in traditional South African clothing.
The small workshop that established with support from Masicorp is a popular destination on local township tours, where tourists often buy her produce. She also has sold her products from a stall in Tokai Forest Market and is looking at the possibility of space at the new Watershed development at the V&A Waterfront.
We hope you like her Baby Shweshwe range and please feel free to contact her using the details below.
Ndileka Biyo, Baby Shweshwe
1574 Skina Road, Masiphumelele
Tel: 082 731 5560
This month sees the beginning of a partnership between Masicorp and AWOL Tours, who operate cycling tours of Masiphumelele in association with the Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN). The relationship will see both organisations working together in the long-term to identify and support specific projects in the township. The AWOL tour currently visits educational sites such as the library and a pre-school as well as taking in wider aspects of community life, such as a visit to a traditional healer. The tour has proved to be very successful with international tourists and has received some excellent Tripadvisor reviews.
AWOL have generously agreed to donate R50 per paying guest on each of their tours, which will be used to support early childhood development projects in the community. This is in line with the company’s position as a leader in responsible tourism in South Africa. They have previously been awarded Fair Trade in Tourism status due to their work with local communities and their preference for training and employing local staff.
Earlier this year several of the Masicorp team joined AWOL bicycle guide, Zwai, to experience the tour. Zwai lives in Masiphumelele and has worked for AWOL for many years. It was immediately apparent that there are many synergies between what Masicorp and AWOL tours are doing in terms of community upliftment and in particular supporting early childhood development. The tours also often start or finish with a visit to Nonny’s Bakery for coffee and so support another Masicorp project. For a review of the visit by the Masicorp team please click HERE.
Township tourism does not always get a good press but the sensitive approach taken by AWOL tours is to be commended and we are delighted to be in partnership with such a respected tour operator. We look forward to a long working relationship and would absolutely recommend the tour to all visitors to the area, local or international.