Over time, we developed a friendship with MaMopeli. She has a reputation of being a great cook and was quickly hired to do the catering for the quarterly TEE conferences. She didn't speak English well at the time, but began taking English classes offered at her church some time ago. Her English has improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years! Communication became easier for us. Around that time, I was reminded of how desperate she was for a steady job. So, early last year I decided to hire MaMopeli to come weekly to clean our house. The day she came to tour the house and learn where I kept cleaning supplies, etc., was the day I found out I was expecting. I had two weeks sick-free before my health plummeted. I was relieved that she had already learned the ropes before I was incapacitated by pregnancy sickness. It quickly became obvious that we needed help more than once a week. She began coming twice weekly to help keep the house together while I puked all day long. It is no exaggeration to say she kept this place functioning while I was so bad off.
One day during that time we arrived home from a doctor's visit in South Africa. When we entered the house we found that some raw chicken juice had leaked out of the fridge and was totally rotten. The house smelled worse than you can imagine. Having such a weak stomach at the time, I simply could not deal with it. MaMopeli happened to come by and she painstakingly cleaned up that disgusting mess without a single complaint. It brings tears to my eyes; she has been a Godsend.
Finally the sickness passed and my parents came to visit. During a walk through town one day, my mom and I were discussing Mokhotlong and it's lack of innovation. Sure, there are some unique businesses sprinkled around. But by and large the stores and roadside shops all sell essentially the same thing. Aside from cleaning for us, the payment for which could hardly provide for a family of five, MaMopeli has a secondhand clothing shop. To say that her store struggles would be an understatement. My mom and I dreamed up the idea of a sweet shop. There is nothing sweet to buy here in Mokhotlong besides prepackaged wafers at the markets. A few days later, I approached MaMopeli and asked if she would be interested in opening a sweet shop if we helped her get started and taught her what we knew. She enthusiastically agreed.
Before my mom left, we went through GAME, Walmart's close cousin, and gathered things like muffin tins, baking sheets, oven mitts and cake pans. MaMopeli's home has no electricity and she did not own a stove. My parents gifted her with a small gas stove so she could bake goods in her own home and sell them at her shop. Her secondhand clothes store began doubling as MaMopeli's Sweet Shop. We tested cookie recipes and muffin recipes and I tried to teach her what little I knew about decorating cakes. Word began to spread and she was soon hand-delivering cakes to friends in town.
These are poor quality but they are the ones I have of her delivering her first cake! Her artistic ability has improved greatly over the past year!
I have been so impressed by her determination. Nothing holds this lady back! After baking a batch of cookies or muffins, she would pack them up and take them to the taxi rank, bank, post office and other government offices to offer them for sale! Rather than wait for customers to come to her, she was busy walking all over Mokhotlong spreading the word of her new business endeavor. We printed up fliers of simple cakes which she could make for special occasions and she posted them around town.
Recently she decided to reserve a shop in a new building being built. She wants to open a genuine sweet shop. She wants to sell cakes, cupcakes, pies, cookies, bars and muffins and coffee and tea. It is a convenient location because it is near the main street and close to the taxi rank. It will also offer electricity so she won't have to use my kitchen to store her supplies. She generates muffins and cookies out of her own home. However, I have a large kitchen with lots of work space, so she always bakes and ices her cakes over here.
We Westerners are beginning to grasp this concept of "When Helping Hurts." Oftentimes we want to come in and throw money and supplies at a problem which can't be fixed by those things. To the best of our understanding, the most beneficial thing we can do to help the developing world is to teach them to "fish for themselves." In short, rather than handing a starving person a basket of fish which would feed him for only a few days, we ought to be teaching him to fish which would feed him for the rest of his life! In a world full of handouts and little initiative, let's encourage and aid those who are working hard to better their families and their local economies! What I am saying is this, sometimes to get off the ground, struggling business endeavors need a push in the right direction. One of our friends runs a sewing studio here in Mokhotlong. She is so busy she can barely keep up. Do you know how she got started? Donated sewing machines from mission teams who came to Mokhotlong. She now employs a number of other people! Our close national colleague operates a computer training program out of an office nearby. Want to know how he got started? Donated computers from believers in South Africa.
If you desire to see MaMopeli's business grow and flourish, would you consider donating towards her startup costs? She has never asked me for a loan or an advance. She works hard for her money! She hasn't asked me to advocate on her behalf. She hasn't ever asked me for anything! But I know her financial situation and how difficult or even impossible it will be for her to set up the shop she is envisioning out of her own proceeds. And I know our Western financial situation and how easy it would be for many of us to help in a small way! She is seeking to buy a couple small tables and chairs, a refrigerator display case and an electric stove. If you would like to bless someone this holiday season, please consider blessing this innovated, determined, hard-working lady by helping her start a unique business in Mokhotlong. Please message me for giving details if you are interested. Oh, and with three teenagers in her house, she's expecting a baby next month! I can hardly wait to see her decorating cakes with a baby on her back. Well, her baby that is.... she already works with my baby on her back!