Tag Archive for: stories

Dumisile Mqadi and I sat on the rooftop terrace of Happy Hippo, the funky eco-friendly backpackers in downtown Durban.   Dumi has been working for Happy Hippo and its sister lodge, Hippo Hide, for more than 6 years. She started off as a cleaning lady, but that was only the beginning.   “One day, I walked past Michelle Brooks’ office while I was carrying the laundry. Michelle came to me and asked me if I wanted to try and work downstairs at reception. I thought she was joking, so I said “No”, giggling. She told me I should try it out for a month and see how it was; I didn’t believe her, but I saw my name on the schedule for the next month and I saw that I had been put down as a receptionist for some days, and others as a cleaner. I just wanted to quit; I was scared and shy, I wanted to stay at home; I didn’t know what to say. I felt I was not educated enough, I was just a cleaning lady.”

Dumi's contagious smile breaks through her shyness ©David Peter Harris

Dumi’s contagious smile breaks through her shyness ©David Peter Harris

“I did eventually go, and my first shift as a receptionist was at Hippo Hide – I had a night shift, and as all first days I wasn’t too sure about how things worked, and there was nobody to tell me how I was doing. In the morning, Mike (Brooks) came and welcomed me to my new job. He told me he trusted me and he didn’t want to hang around because he knew I would be shy to help people in front of him. After two months, Michelle asked me if she could put me reception full time, but I said I wanted to go back to work as a cleaning lady. I was still very scared and I thought I belonged to that job only. My colleagues in the office were amazing because they treated me as equal and wanted to assist me and help me with any requests, so I chose to stay instead. I owe it to them where I am now; they helped me stick to it and grow confidence.”

“I am not going to lie; I am still very shy and scared. I still feel like I am new here and not educated to do this; our teamwork helps me overcome my insecurities.”   “Any tips to empowerment I would like to share? We all come from different families, but respect is universal. When you’re unsure, ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, I can’t stress that enough. Be humble and accept being lead and not leading sometime. If you want to do something, you have to fight for it, you can’t sit around but work for a better future.”

“I am so proud of what I have done; I wish I could do more now”. Dumi is planning to further her education, and she is pondering whether to study Tourism or Education. “I always thank Michelle and Mike for seeing the potential in me.”   “Deep rivers run quiet”, says Haruki Murakami, and Dumi is a reminder that the humble choices we make every day build up to a better self and a better community.

Catch a lovely sunset from The Globe - rooftop bar at Happy Hippo accommodation, ©David Peter Harris

Catch a lovely sunset from The Globe – rooftop bar at Happy Hippo accommodation, ©David Peter Harris


Florence Chabanel, co-owner of Le Fournil de Plett, Plettenberg Bay. @ David Peter Harris.

Florence Chabanel, co-owner of Le Fournil de Plett, Plettenberg Bay. @ David Peter Harris.


On my first visit to Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape, I was pleased to find many stations where people could drop their recycling in the colourful bins. That was just one of the many signs that Plett is not only the ultimate holiday escape, but is a town built on firm eco ethics and awareness. Florence Chabanel, the French half of Le Fournil de Plett, is one of the drivers of this inspiring eco shift.

“Our passion is making our customers happy, in the same way you would treat your friends at home. We believe that you are what you eat, so nothing tops natural food that is chemical and preservative-free . At Le Fournil we are proud to make all our dishes from scratch, from home-made artisan breads to real stock for our hearty soups.  Sourcing and offering free-range and organic products as much as we can is our ethic and neither Jane (co-owner) or myself are ready to compromise.”

“What difference do we make in the world? We actively  participate in educating people’s taste as well as making our staff proud of their skills and their creations. So maybe we are not making a difference to the big world but we certainly do make a difference in our small,  little world. “


Le Fournil de Plett prides itself in a business ethos and inspiring eco choices, which pave the way for bigger changes.

Pop in for an almond croissant and a cup of coffee, or visit their Eco Atlas page.


Alshaun Bosch in his garden, Steenberg, Cape Town. He signed up for the training program offered by Soil for Life (SFL) and won Gardener of the Year @ David peter Harris.

Alshaun Bosch in his garden, in Steenberg, Cape Town. He signed up for the Home Food Garden Program offered by Soil for Life (SFL) and won Gardener of the Year in 2014 @ David Peter Harris.


We met Alshaun at his place in Steenberg, a community in the Southern Suburbs where very often gang crime flares up, putting its residents at high risk. He welcomed us with a bright smile, thrilled to take Louise from Soil for Life around, showing her (and us) the new developments and additions to his home vegetable garden. He tells us, “I wasn’t really interested in gardening before, I started by chance. Then, the first seeds started growing and I noticed little things coming alive. Now when I eat, I think that my food comes from something that was once little; I am in love with vegetables and I always tell my kids to eat them.”

“Gardening helps me with being patient, I never stop trying to get the results I want. My garden is my joy and my safe place. I sometimes hear gun shots but I know I am safe here. It has become a meditative, spiritual and liberating experience”.

Alshaun took part in the Home Food Garden Program run by the Cape Town-based NGO Soil For Life (SFL). The organisation educates and trains people in organic food gardening, running hands-on practical training courses in impoverished communities so that families can grow their own healthy food all year around. SFL provides ongoing support and advice to the home food gardeners. Alshaun won the Home Gardener of the Year in 2014; he now makes his own compost, some of which is sold at SFL’s Resource Centre in Constantia, grows organic vegetables and he is planning to open a nursery too. He makes beautiful up-cycled pots and planter boxes, that can be purchased directly from him (email us if you would like to make contact).


Alshaun in his garden in Steenberg @David Peter Harris.

Alshaun in his home vegetable garden in Steenberg, Cape Town @David Peter Harris


SFL is running the fourth edition of the annual Eat for the Earth Campaign. During the month of June, anyone can register for a meal, receive tips for growing and preparing wholesome food, and host a  meal where you and your friends can share delicious food, and donate resources to SFL. and trains people in


Host a fundraising meal, or get in touch with Soil For Life via their website.


Iain Harris, Founder and Creative Director of Coffeebeans Routes at its Headquarters, Cape Town Creative Emporium ©David Peter Harris

Iain Harris, Founder and Creative Director of Coffeebeans Routes at its Headquarters, Cape Town Creative Emporium ©David Peter Harris


Coffeebeans Routes, gold winner in the category Best for Engaging People and Culture in the African Responsible Tourism Awards, is a cultural tour operator  that provides collections of stories. “When it comes to stories, we are the most equal, but they also provide ground to turn the tables on traditional assumptions  – Coffeebeans Routes is the connection between disempowered communities that are excited to share their stories, and international and local travellers hungry for narratives”, Iain Harris, Founder and Creative Director, tells us when we met him at CR Headquarters, home to Cape Town Creative Emporium.

“Why do I believe what I do makes a difference to the world? I get to hear stories that open my world in amazing ways, I feel very privileged to have this access. There is a financial benefit to it, as Coffebeans Routes offers a formalized structure with remuneration for the storytellers that values stories above everything else. There is a cultural element to it too; coming out of an economy of silence, the audience is interested, and  has warm welcoming ears  to stories in an environment where people are not usually listened to. What comes out of it is not only a financial benefit for the story tellers, but great affirmation, and this is shown by the terrific response we get from them [story tellers].”

Golden Team: Iain Harris, Natasha Moses and Kabelo Michael Letlala ©David Peter Harris

Golden Team: Iain Harris, Natasha Moses and Kabelo Michael Letlala ©David Peter Harris

“There is no sustainability without social justice. No matter what green interventions we put in place, they will not work unless society becomes socially and culturally equal. The starting point is asking yourself “How do we treat each other?”. This is also an angle that makes you see things differently, why people act the way they do. If your work is geared towards challenging and undoing inequalities through your business ethos, then you’re at a good point. After that we can look at practical interventions, like recycling and reducing. They can happen in parallel, but the one can’t happen without the other. “

Coffeebeans Routes has teamed up with Africa is a Country to present a concert series in Cape Town on the last Thursday of every month, kicking off on June 25th 2015 with Loit Sols & Churchill Naude. If you are not in the area, tune in to Africa is a Country where concerts will be live streamed. Don’t miss this opportunity to discover some of the most precious musical gems in the Mother City.

Read more on Coffeebeans Routes, make contact and book a tour via their Eco Atlas page.