Train The Trainer

Livingstone Mukasa presenting training on the Reconxile course.

There is an old saying that says: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man and he will eat for life time.”

Livingstone Mukasa.

Livingstone Mukasa is from Kampala, Uganda. Having grown up under difficult financial conditions, he knows first-hand the struggles that confront people trapped in poverty. Even after obtaining a higher diploma in marketing and moving on to get a job, he still found it difficult to financially support himself and a family well. Livingstone saw that employees of businesses were not the ones making money, It’s the business owners that take home the biggest reward.

With this realisation early on in life he decided that the only way out of poverty was to start a business of his own. Soon after that realisation he left his employment to start his own business. He has since grown into a successful businessman. With his success as a businessman and a desire to see others move themselves from the poverty line to better economic situation, he has also started training people in how to start and run their own businesses.

Michael Clargo & Reconxile

Livingstone had a contact in the UK called Michael Clargo. Michael Clargo, a director of Tesseract Management Systems (http://www.tesseracts.co.uk/), and a few businessmen in the UK had a sense that they wanted to do something about the poverty in the world and decided to start in Uganda. Armed with some money to invest, and good business knowledge and experience, these businessmen set out to meet with small business owners to offer advice and possibly financial assistance. After meeting with many business owners these UK businessmen found that the small business owners all wanted a large capital boost, and many of the decisions they were making for their businesses and planned to make with the possibility of more money seemed to not make good business sense, or to not be helpful to the poor. The businessmen then set out to find some some material that would assist them to train people in business, but all they found were materials that were either too complex or too simple. They decided they would write their own material. This was the birth of Reconxile (http://www.reconxile.org/).

The Reconxile programme has a few workbooks / courses ranging from inspiring business start-ups to setting up a business and onto improving a business once up and running. The programme has and is constantly being refined with feedback given, and adapted to local languages and circumstances. The Reconxile programme is a great tool (especially the workbook on starting up a business) we’ve found, used, and look forward to using these more as we progress in our efforts here at Let Us Work.

Earlier this year in February we had the opportunity to invite Livingstone Mukasa from Uganda come out to see us and give us training on how to present the Reconxile workbook 2 course (setting up a business). Livingstone is a successful businessman in Uganda as well as a skilled trainer of the Reconcile programme. Since starting his own business and raising it to be a success, he has also presented the Reconxile programme to many church and other groups all over Uganda. His skill in presenting and inspiring hope as taken him to many countries around the world to share the Reconxile programme.

We had a great time in the training sessions. Livingstone spent the first two days of the week training prospective entrepreneurs on how to set-up and run a business with the Reconxile material. The following three days he trained current and prospective Let Us Work trainers on how to present the course. It was a three days of intense training. The focus was not so much on the material to be taught as it was on how best to present and teach it. The course material is quite easy to read alone and to be self taught, so with the students armed with the material to go over in our own time, Livingstone focused on the presentation methods of the course.  At the end of the training, those on the training all received certificates for the completion of the training.

We are grateful to Livingstone for taking time out of running his business to come over to South Africa to teach us how to teach others! Here are a few pics from the week of training in the Let Us Work training room:

Bee Hives of opportunity…

Hlabisa is not a well known town. In fact, as you are reading this, it may even be the first

Ps Mavundla - 29 and ready to bring the world to Hlabisa

time you’ve ever heard of it. The only thing Hlabisa is known for, is having one of the highest rates of HIV/Aids infection in the world. Growing up in Hlabisa, most youngsters live without hope. Most of them dream of getting out, leaving, and making it big, somewhere else. A vast majority live without clean water, electricity or sanitation, like far too many rural areas in Africa. In Hlabisa, there are some who wish to change this. There are a group of young men, who dream of staying there, and making it big, in Hlabisa: a place to be proud of. They will no longer settle for living below the bread-line and depending on government grants. They have a cunning plan.

Colourful Homes of the Hlabisa region

The local economy of rural areas within KZN is very poorly developed. One of the reasons is “economic leakage”: rural people are forced to spend their money in economic centres instead of their own community due to lack of infrastructure, or lack of knowledge on how to conduct business. By finding business solutions within the immediate community, adapted to local circumstances, capital can be kept circulating within the community, through the establishment of small- and micro-businesses. Let Us Work is running a volunteer program, through Be-More (a Dutch organisation), with the objective of using knowledge and experience of foreign business people or students, to assist with training, advice and hands on assistance. Most of the areas that we work in are situated in rural communities in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. These areas are far from any major cities and therefore accommodation is not easily accessible.

In Hlabisa, the only available accommodation is in the Hluhluwe – Imfolozi Game Reserve. This is catered to foreign tourists and is therefore rather expensive for volunteers, trainers and any other businessmen wanting to visit the area. Aspirant young men from the local community are in the process of setting up a Bed and Breakfast as alternative accommodation for foreign volunteers, trainers, businessmen and tourists. This is phase one of their plan. Once the Bed and Breakfast is running well, they will be setting up more tourism initiatives to generate interest in the area. Just like they do not want to rely on government grants, they do not want to rely on tourism either. They want to put their town on the map. They have plans to start-up other small businesses in the area, so that their neighbours do not have to travel to other places, to get services and goods. This will all be part of a larger plan, to build their town into a place where people want to stay… Who knows, maybe one day, it will be a bustling city.

Uniforms of Pride: Local Soccer players use a piece of flat unoccupied ground as a makeshift stadium.

Initially, two traditional style “Bee-Hive” huts will be built on land acquired in Hlabisa. This land is situated within a rural village community, with a picturesque view and close proximity to the small town of Hlabisa. Initially the Bed and Breakfast will be used to accommodate Be-More volunteers working in the area. Its proximity to the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park would also attract tourists looking for a more traditional experience and a cost effective alternative to staying in the park, in order to cover running costs in periods when foreign volunteers are not using the facility. There is currently no other commercial accommodation available in the area. Ammenities will include the set-up of basic sanitation, clean water and beds, with enough rustic appeal to be considered as a traditional experience.

An example of the spacious layout.

An example of a smaller bee-hive hut in Hlabisa

The business will be owned and run by members of the community, who would interact with guests, and give them information and insight into the area, as well as Zulu life. Hlabisa is accessible through the old Nongoma road, which runs through the game reserve. Quite often when driving this road, you can see elephants, rhino and various other game, without even officially entering the game reserve. Therefore visitors will get to see the park, as well as have the opportunity of experiencing day to day life in a rural Zulu community. This project will also collaborate and generate other business start-ups in the area, such as catering of traditional food, cleaning and other requirements. This means the business would directly benefit the community by helping to build the local economy, as well as boost tourism and business investment into the area.

Here are some pictures of some wildlife seen on the old Nongoma road and within the Hluhluwe game reserve.

Lion

White Rhino

                                                                      Elephant

Wildebeest

Bee-eater

We look forward to writing a blog post about the finished project. Until then, we would like to say thank you to Be-More for their support and for helping with start-up capital through partnership with volunteers.

Always sad to leave Zululand.

Soda Bottles can change lives….

One of the goals of let us work is to try and harness green energy. We are always looking for ways to help improve people’s lives, whilst at the same time, doing no harm to the environment. A lot of people in rural areas do not have access to electricity, much less hot water.

Living by candlelight is a daily reality for people who have to walk to fetch water, have cold baths and cook on a fire. You know that feeling you get after you have been camping for a week and you just can’t wait to have a hot bath, a home-cooked meal, and sleep in your own bed without having to fumble about with a torch to go to the toilet? Well, it’s not quite that feeling, because most of the people in rural areas have never experienced going back to comfort, but I’m pretty sure it’s close. I have no doubt that there are many people, living day to day in rural areas, whose lives could be improved with a little innovation.

 At “Let Us Work”, we have a research centre, where we are testing green alternatives, which require no electricity, but could bring a little comfort to rural homes, through recycling.

We have a number of ideas on the go, but for now, I would like to specifically draw your attention to the various projects that we are testing out, utilizing 2l plastic soda bottles:

 A rural community is busy assembling a solar water heating system made out of piping and plastic soda bottles. They are killing 3 birds with some plastic that is no good to anybody, or so you’d think. First of all, the obvious – they are recycling plastic waste that would otherwise go to the dumps. They are improving people’s lives by giving them hot water (unfortunately only on sunny days, which is pretty much all the time in KZN), and they are using it as a small business start-up, so that they can make a little money.

In our “Let us Work” research centre (which is what we call the section of the garage/garden where we test things out), we have been looking into creating lighting using sunlight (from the sun, not South Africa’s favourite dishwashing liquid) and soda bottles to illuminate homes (as a lot of homes do not have windows). This will also only work when there is sunlight.

The third project involves using, once again, 2L soda bottles and string, to create vertical gardens. These are portable and conserve water, as instead of trickling down into the ground, excess water drains directly into the plants below. They take up minimal horizontal space and are therefore not limited by garden area. This is generally not an issue in rural areas, but it makes them perfect for urban “townships”.

So to summarize, we are going to need loads of old 2L soda bottles (and other sizes too). If you are around the Durban area, please collect for us. Pretty soon, soda bottles will be seen as valuable, and we’ll have made a small difference to the environment. This is how SODA BOTTLES CAN CHANGE LIVES….

NGO’s to go…

How did the chicken cross the road? Does it matter, or is it more important that it got there?

The “Let us Work” program is not only about business, but about finding ways to improve people’s lives. It’s about finding a way out of poverty and improving access to services. We aim to nurture NGO’s that have unique ideas on how to reach out to communities and co-operatives that can access government funding to uplift their communities. We would assist with training, registration, constitutions and other starting point issues, the same way that we guide start-up businesses. Just like a hand written IOU means nothing in the real world, a hand written proposal usually doesn’t inspire much confidence in an NGO’s ability to comply with accountability and reporting procedures often required by funders. This limits the growth of NGO’s that have the heart to make a real difference. The “Let us Work” program has the resources and staffing to partner with NGO’s to access better funding resources, without NGO’s struggling to source additional admin staff and assets.

We have already seeded an NGO called “Mobilize for Mobility” that sources second hand wheelchairs and other similar assets and donates them to disabled people who do not currently have access to them, as well as creating awareness and support for disabled people. We will also be assisting with the establishment of food projects for sustenance and market, such as vegetable tunnels and vertical herb gardens. Once funding is available, we have some farmers on board, ready to provide training on sustainable, eco-friendly agricultural practices that utilize plant succession as a means of soil preparation.

We have also been very involved with a project out in Mfume (you have no idea where that is do you?). Mfume is out in the South Coast of Durban, unapproachable by tar roads.

The project is called Siyabathanda: They take in disabled children from the rural communities. Some are orphans, some are left there because their parents aren’t able to take care of them. We have helped them with their constitution and wheel chairs, clothes, toys etc have been donated by people connected with be-more and Isaiah 54. Step by step they are improving their organisation. They currently have to walk far to get clean water and have no electricity. Please get hold of us if you want to help them!

This young girl is deaf, blind, dumb and mostly paralyzed. She now has a new wheel chair thanks to donations organised through Let Us Work and from other organisations. Even though she cannot see or hear you, if you hold her hand, she has a smile that could light up the world!

In the market for change

Adapting business solutions to local circumstances.

In Umbazwane, there aren’t shopping malls, but this small complex is as close to one as you’ll find in rural KZN. There is no supermarket, just a SPAR (convenience store) and a few other small shops. Chinese owned shops are beginning to pop up, but other than that – the business done here is through informal markets like this one.

You can buy fruit and veg, brooms, matches, and other items. The problem is, a lot of the people are selling the same thing at the same price. A couple of stalls will be selling tomatoes, or brooms, with no competition. Their supplier is the same, their product is the same, their marketing and location is the same and the only advantage, is whether a potential customer approaches to their stall first. This scenario is the same throughout KZN, and in fact throughout much of Africa. Curio’s are mostly sourced from the same supplier, and prices are fixed.

This is why the training that Let Us Work is providing is important. We would like to teach rural people how to do business in a way that not only benefits them, but their community. Teach them a little about market research, buying from each other to support local business, and how to make the best of their capital.

In one of the regions we’ve been conducting workshops, one of the trainees came up with the idea of raising and selling chickens. The problem is, rural micro-business cannot hope to compete with the massive chicken farmers, who have every process and space streamlined to make the most profit, with the least amount of spending. A better way to do business, is to rather add value to the product. At the end of the training, the idea had evolved into: raising and marketing organically fed, free range “Emvelo” chickens that are larger and healthier, and then cook them, with spices etc as take away food. Although there is chicken available in the convenience store for a very competitive price, there is no chicken take-away in the area. This is the kind of thinking that we try to encourage! We also have many businesses that involve green ideas. We will be posting more on that soon!

Windows of Opportunity

This is a preview of the content that is going to be up on the website once it is done….:

International co-operation to open windows of opportunity for economic growth.

Sometimes we feel we can do everything on our own, but isn’t it nice to get a little guidance from someone who has been through it? By opening up the program to international volunteers, it provides a unique opportunity for co-operation. Let’s face it, co-operation is always great for business. What I don’t know, someone else might have a fresh perspective on! International volunteers provide expertise and training and have an opportunity to gain a unique perspective on what life is like in rural South Africa. It doesn’t hurt that there are beautiful scenic beaches and game reserves along the way. International volunteers get to experience tourism through a very unique perspective, interact with real people, and make a difference by helping to grow local businesses. Volunteers raise their own money and volunteer packages are coordinated through Be-More, who arrange all the logistical considerations. Altruistic tourism, is there any other kind?