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Improving Communities in South Africa Between Engagements with Makosi

June 03 2021 • 9 min read

Improving Communities in South Africa Between Engagements with Makosi

At Makosi, we are so proud to be able to offer our employees the ability to make an impact on the world over the lifetime of their careers with us. Because our founders and internal team consist of individuals who want to leave the world better than we found it, we set out to thread that mindset through everything we do. From the very start, we have created opportunities for our employees to set out on missions to improve the lives of others. And while we are gearing up to announce our new and improved impact mission, we wanted to take some time to address how we got here, what we have done in the past, and what has led us to hone our mission and focus our impact goal to ensure we make our mark on the world together!

In this blog, one of our amazing Makosi employees details his experience working on one of our first impact projects. He reflects on the difference his work made on a village in South Africa and tells personal stories that made his experience once in a lifetime. Read on to learn about his journey with us.

On a High in Hoedspruit

What a privilege it is to be able to explore our beautiful country while helping our local community!

For most of us auditors, since we left school, we have been stuck in the “rat race” of university, articles and board exams. What Makosi has been able to give us is some time to reflect on how lucky we really are. We were given an incredible opportunity to travel to one of the most remote locations in our stunning country, all while making a difference for a community that needs it most, often forgotten by our citizens and government alike.

The Opportunity Arrives

Whilst waiting to be placed on a project, I received an unexpected call from Mpho, an Engagement Manager on the Makosi internal team. On the call, she offered me the opportunity to be a part of Makosi’s Impact Initiative, which was to start the following Monday for one week. Of course, I was excited to do something not many employees around the world get to do – travel to a place I’ve never been to and make a difference in the lives of others as part of my job. It was almost too good to be true, but that seemed to be the common factor with many things since I started at Makosi.

Mpho sorted out all the logistics leading up to my departure from Cape Town. All I really had to do was get the much-dreaded Covid-19 test for the first time. I really thought I would make it through the Pandemic without a single test, but I was unfortunately mistaken. In all, I can safely say this was the only “negative” part of my experience.

Where is... Hoedspruit?

Our destination was just outside the small town of Hoedspruit. To be more specific, we were staying in a small eco village near to Hoedspuit on the border of Mpumalanga and Limpopo called Nourish Eco Village. The village consisted of a creche, backpackers and permaculture farm amongst other small cabins and rondavels. All proceeds that the village managed to earn went towards the upliftment of young children in the local community.

To get there, I boarded possibly the smallest plane I have ever flown on and probably will ever fly on. With only a bit of turbulence, I arrived safely at the Hoedspruit Airport. It wasn’t quite Heathrow, but more a bush lodge with an airstrip. It was boiling hot and I could sense the excitement of a good week ahead. For the first time of my life, I arrived at an airport with someone holding up a board with my name on it (actually the name “Makosi”, but I knew it was meant for me). I immediately got to meet my colleagues who were strangers to me due to the “remote working” situation we find ourselves in. Thereafter, we were taken to our end destination – Nourish.

Relaxing Arrival Ahead of a Big Week

The day that we arrived at Nourish, it was already afternoon and the kids had mostly gone home. It was around 30 degrees, so manual labour, which was on the menu for the week, was delayed until the next day. We got an awesome tour around Nourish by a lady named Mel B, where she showed us every aspect of the village, which included the rondavels, tents, kitchen, bar and pool area of the backpackers and then onto the gardens, the library and the creche where we would be working for the next week. Once the tour was complete, we were given the rest of the afternoon off by Johan, who would oversee our work for the week. We were then able to take in the surroundings and melt in the sun around the pool. One of my easier days of the experience!

The Work Begins

Look, we knew we weren’t going to Hoedspruit to work on our laptops… but nothing had us prepared for the exhaustion of what was to come in the next few days working in 35 degree heat. Tuesday was a public holiday and therefore the children didn’t come into the creche. Johan was the man with the plan and started us off clearing everything in sight to get an open area where the kids can run around and play. The current playground was quite small and Nourish had just built a new creche which seemed like it would more than double the capacity of the original space in the creche. Obviously, this called for a bigger playground and we were the earth-moving equipment for this job. It was hard work and in the sun, we were exhausted before midday.

Being classic audit ninjas (a title we made for ourselves at Makosi), we were far more efficient than Johan had anticipated and after lunch, he had nothing more for us to do, as we had already completed an eight hour work day in just four hours. But that’s why Makosi hired us, right? The rest of the day was spent around the pool. The perfect reward after a hard day of work.

Painting the Creche

We knew there was a newly built creche because we had seen it. We had also seen that it was without color… and just as we had suspected, the next day, we were up bright and early painting the creche. After experiencing the heat the day before, we wanted to get this done as quickly as possible.  Although none of us were experts on painting buildings, we were still able to complete the job as efficiently as we did the day before. But this time, our efficiency came back to bite us when Johan thought it a good idea to do a second coat in the afternoon, as the first coat had gone so quickly. As we used to experience during articles, the only reward for good work is more work. Once we finished the second coat and we were fully covered in paint, we got ready for an evening around the fire with a drink in hand.  Our tourist friends from Italy that we made the first night loved that Johan referred to our fire as “bush TV” and went on to repeat that joke to us every few hours for the rest of the week.

Village Tour

Earlier on in the week Johan, had told us that we would be taken on a tour around the local village - this time not just the Nourish Eco Village, but the actual village which was home to the community that Nourish served. We were going to learn about the way of life for those living in the area that we were improving with our work.

We were up early again and our guide, a local gentleman named Martin, took us around his hometown village and showed us the way of life in the village as he knows it. Martin worked for Nourish, but had also grown up in the local village where the local language was Tsonga.

Our tour through the village was nothing short of amazing. It was, without a doubt, the highlight of my entire experience in Hoedspruit. We got to meet the locals and see how they lived. There were so many beautiful homes where people lived self-sufficiently off their own land. There was a real sense of community and seeing Martin know every single person by name made me realize how  different life is in my community. The problems the people in the village face are bigger than the problems that we face, yet somehow they seem to stress over those problems way less. It made me realize that we don’t seem to appreciate the small things in life the way the people in this village do. Many of us have lost touch with reality and we think our problems are the end of the world, when really, they are nothing to worry about in the bigger scheme of things. The appreciation of life itself is so evident in these smaller communities where people have close to nothing. In a lot of ways, I envied the simplicity of their lives and how they found happiness effortlessly in the way in which they lived, despite the financial struggle they clearly go through every day.

We visited a sangoma (traditional healer) at his home in the village. The closest experience I had to this was when I watched the South African movie classic, Mr Bones. In all honesty, I was completely uneducated in what a sangoma is and what they do, so for me, it was awesome to see it all in real life. We ate the traditional food and beer at the sangoma’s home, which included mopane worms. I couldn’t bring myself to try those – one step at a time haha.

We continued our walk through the village and Martin continued with his interesting stories about the local beliefs which included some traditions that I would never have found out about had I not experienced this village tour. He revealed many of the traditions that the villagers believe in and perform on a regular basis to help their children grow and keep their men in the best shape. It was all very interesting to learn about. I will never forget my experience seeing this way of life.

Let's Build a Garden

Our last day of work was creating a permaculture garden which would consist of fruit and vegetables to be used in the kitchen for food for both the children in the creche as well as guests in the backpackers. We cleared the area and created six large beds that could be used for years to come.

On Friday evening, we had a bit of an outing to the actual town of Hoedspruit. We had a very fun night with Johan, our friends from Italy and of course, the audit ninjas from Makosi. Our friends from Italy were horrified when they saw what we called “pizza” in South Africa and were dead against pineapple… or avocado as a topping.

Some Beautiful View to Finish the Trip

A massive highlight for me was getting to tick an item off the very top of my South African bucket list – hiking the Blyde River Canyon. It was an incredible experience and the rain and clouds only just stayed away (of course the only day it was cloudy with rain was the day we were in the mountains). Luckily, the weather cleared up and the views were absolutely amazing. We did a Blyde River Tour, as well as, a drive up to the very top to see the entire canyon as well as the Three Rondavels. It absolutely did not disappoint.

On the Saturday evening, our friends from Italy made us two pastas that they had been promising to make us all week – of course this included a bacon carbonara done the correct way (i.e. with no cream). It was a perfect way to end a great day and incredible week meeting new people and experiencing a completely different part of South Africa.

The End (but Not Really)

Sunday morning was time to say goodbye to what was overall one of the highlights of my working career so far. Being able to do something so different with Makosi was incredible. I cannot wait to be on the first plane out again, whether to the very same place or a completely different one. Sunday Blues set in of course. I said goodbye Hoedspruit… but hopefully not for long.

Written by Makosi Employee "Audit Ninja" Andrew Booysen

A special thank you to Nourish Eco Village

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