South Africa: A Better Life with the Assistance of JRS
15 December 2015

Cynthia Razawu at her small business at the Tourism Information Centre in Makhado, Limpopo Province, South Africa. (Gushwell F. Brooks/Jesuit Refugee Service)
The work JRS has done in Makhado has not only made a difference in the lives of the people we work with, but has positively impacted on local communities as well.

Makhado, 9 December 2015 – The best description of what we aim to achieve with the work Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), does with refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people, was given by Pope Francis’ at the recent 35th Anniversary of JRS: “help refugees grow in self-confidence, to realise their highest inherent potential and be able to defend their rights as individuals and communities.”

The cases of Cynthia Razawu and Denny Magama are testimony to the fact that a combined eagerness from refugees and asylum seekers that we work with, and our concerted efforts to give people an opportunity to earn their own livelihoods, yield results.

Cynthia came from Zimbabwe in 2009. Because of Zimbabwe’s economic collapse at the time, many Zimbabwean nationals literally faced abject poverty and so many crossed into South Africa. “Life in South Africa is better, especially if you are doing something.” Says Cynthia.

When Cynthia reached JRS she had very little: “JRS helped me with rent, clothing and food parcels, when I got here. I was doing piece jobs, here and there, but needed something more substantial.” Cynthia was amongst the first group of women to participate in the Vocational Skills Training (VST) offered at Madi a Thavha, in partnership with JRS in 2010. The course took three months and Cynthia took classes in sewing, beadwork, embroidery, crocheting, craft work and business skills.

During this time she also assisted as a translator in class. Her leadership qualities were evident then already and today she is the Vice-president of the Zimbabwean association in the local township neighbouring Makhado, Tshikota. The Zimbabwean and South African Resident’s Associations were established to foster dialogue between the two communities and has been very successful in preventing outbursts of xenophobic violence, incidents that dominated news during the first half of 2015, nationally.

Cynthia runs a very successful and impressive business from the Tourism Information Centre in Makhado. Her tastefully designed gowns adorn hangers and her arts and crafts are stacked neatly on shelves as she sits behind her sewing machine, designing and altering various outfits. Cynthia’s story shows that when given the opportunity, as JRS aims to do through its work, refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people can flourish and not only make a life for themselves but impact positively on their communities as well.

Denny Magama, is another such success story. From Harare in Zimbabwe, he left his two sons and wife behind. His eldest son is working and the younger is in school. Denny started working as a panelbeater as soon as he completed his schooling. Panelbeating was a family business in Zimbabwe, but with poor turn of events with the economy in Zimbabwe, Denny had to seek other opportunities.

JRS gave Denny an opportunity to reach his potential, maintain his dignity and earn a living for himself. In February, earlier this year, JRS assisted him by providing him with an air compressor and spray guns. He now runs his own panelbeating business independently, repairing the dents and dings of clients’ vehicles. He is also able to spray paint vehicles for repairs or re-spray vehicles to suit his clients’ aesthetic tastes.

Now Denny is able to use his skills in South Africa, where he earns enough to send money to his family in Zimbabwe and has employed a local South African as his assistant. JRS’s experience has been that refugees and asylum seekers tend to make positive contributions to their host communities and Denny re-emphasises that fact.

The work JRS has done in Makhado has not only made a difference in the lives of the people we work with, but has positively impacted on local communities as well. 

Press Contact Information
Gushwell F. Brooks
+27 11 618 3404