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Empowering local communities starts at home

  With files from Thanda Times interview by Nichole Stanton.   Sindiswa Mboyiya moved to KwaZulu Natal long before I had even finished high school, in 1997. She was born in King Williams Town and grew up in Port Elizabeth, but made the move seeking work to the eastern most province in South Africa. Six children and a handful of jobs later, Sindie and I crossed paths when she started as my housekeeper at the flat I lived in while Project Manager at African Impact in St Lucia in 2012.   Sindie has an outgoing, playful character that often masks her tough, hard-working nature. Often times I’d awake on the weekends to find her ironing my wrinkled, 10-year-old jean shorts and I’d beg her not to bother. However, on she would go, ironing everything from my baggy work hoodies to my underwear. No job was too big or too small for Sindie.   "Work gives me satisfaction and makes me happy so I have had no complaints,” explains Sindie.   Not only does work bring a certain happiness for Sindie, it’s incredibly important in this area of South Africa. Unemployment in the area of KwaZulu Natal is estimated at around 45%, so African Impact and other non-governmental organisations that provide a stable income are of great importance.   Which is why, when part-time work came available with African Impact, I suggested Sindie as a housekeeper for the volunteer house. Our St Lucia projects in total have six permanent local staff members, and when Sindie joined the team she fit right in – mostly because she worked so hard and it was clear she had earned a place in the AI team.   Within no time Sindie hit her stride and, much like her meticulous ironing, she worked wonders on the volunteer house – you could catch her cleaning cobwebs and windows on the regular.   Not only was Sindie empowered by her newfound responsibilities, but she began to attend our projects on her off days, racking up quite a few days on our Garbage Pick-Up project, and even sent her kids to our weekly Reading Club, where a number of them have received certificates for their reading.   "Last year [my children] lost their father, he passed away,” explained Sindie, “I am now a single parent but…I know that I will raise my kids nicely until they finish school. Maybe I will have a future doctor or nurse in my family.”   Upon hearing of the loss of her partner, African Impact staff paid Sindie a visit, bringing a food parcel as is customary in the local culture. Sindie had now become desperate for full-time work, and staff kept a keen eye open for availabilities in St Lucia and elsewhere.   Soon thereafter, full-time work came in the form of a transfer to Ulwazi Lodge on Thanda Private Game Reserve, which hosts five different African Impact projects and a load of volunteers. Sindie transferred in May 2013, and her hard work and dedication paid off as she was promoted to Head Housekeeper, working with a team consisting of three other workers.   "I enjoy my work and feel proud of myself,” says Sindie, a goal African Impact has for all the people we work alongside – from community members to our own staff.   The empowerment of local staff in St Lucia took great strides this year, not only with Sindie. To give staff the opportunity to help their community and interact with the volunteers, all employees – from the cook to housekeeper – now run at least one project each during the week. It gives them a great chance to learn new skills, work on their oral English skills with volunteers and empowers them with new responsibilities.   To see Sindie now, in charge of the upkeep and maintenance of a 30-chalet lodge, is to truly see the power of opportunity and empowerment, supplied directly by African Impact.   For more information about our projects in St Lucia and the rest of South Africa please click here.   

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