The break of dawn creeps onto our homestead, waking the chickens, the birds in the fruit trees, and the dogs retire from their evening watch. My Make (mother) has been up for hours. Clanking pots, water splashes in buckets and heavy breathing can be heard as she pounds, stretches, and kneads the dough preparing emafati and buns for market. The homestead is quiet by 7am, as she hauls her goods down the road- balancing a large, bright green tub on her head. She stops and greets everyone she sees, hustling baked goods for a rand a piece. One rand. Its hard to imagine that this spare change, .14 US cents, can accumulate school fees for 3 children, put her oldest daughter through university in South Africa, provide clothing, food and shelter for her family.
She has other tricks to make up the difference. She once took a bus for 2 hours to get 50 live chickens. Sleeping outside the gas station where they were sold so she could have first pick, and bring all those chickens back on the bus by herself. This was the only time I have ever seen my Make cry- covered in chicken poop, scratches up and down her arms, defeated by embarrassment and the exhaustion of being a single mother in rural Swaziland. The chickens are a good way for her to earn extra profit though, and our homestead is flooded with them around the time school fees are due. However, after the mission of getting the chickens, they still have to be caught, killed, defeathered, the meat prepared for sale, and then find buyers. Nothing is easy here.
I have often thought about ways I could help Make set up a store in our community. She is smart, and has a good business sense. She is the most determined women I have ever met- regardless of the continent I am on. Make is one of those people you just want something good to happen to- they deserve it, they’ve earned it.
Now, her opportunity has finally come. A store on the outskirts of town is being sold, as the owner has died. We have assessed the area, potential for business and profit; this is the opportunity we have been waiting for. I contributed with a loan for the first months rent on the building. Make is too proud to take a handout or charity. But we still need to buy stock for the store so she can start selling. She has priced out the essentials she needs to stock, and has figured she needs about 3,000 rand ($428 USD) to get the bare minimum, but with the profit from the initial stock, will be able to restock on her own.
Peace Corps is not about hand outs, and neither is Make. I am asked for money nearly everyday, but this time I am offering my help. She will not take money as a gift, when the loan is repaid, I will be able to use the money to help someone else. This is something very close to my heart, and would love to see my Make earning a stable income to support the family that has become my own.
I have put down the first $100 USD. If you would like to contribute any amount, please send via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are in the Detroit or Kalamazoo area, anyone in my family can deposit donations directly into my bank account as well. Any contributions would be appreciated, the USD/Rand conversation is 7 to 1- so even small donations can add up to a lot!