GroundUp (Cape Town)

South Africa: Immigrants Establish Support Project for Women

Evelyn Handiseni founded a support project called Divine Caring Hands in 2012. The idea was born from her desire to help women who face challenges similar to those she has faced in her own life.

She helps women to realise their potential and to not limit themselves because of their immigrant status.

Twenty-eight year old Handiseni's project helps black African immigrant women by encouraging them to further their education and by helping them to become entrepreneurs. It also helps support women who are giving birth or have experienced a death in their families.

Handiseni said, "The project's success includes the Kuilsriver pre-school which was started by 26 members. The pre-school has 20 children and is managed by two care-givers. It is an advantage to women whose children are in this pre-school because it is within their vicinity. In winter they do not move around with children using public transport. The children are safe and it is convenient for the parents working long hours. We are working on ways to make the pre-school sustainable and profitable so that we are able to pay the caregivers. We intend to send them to colleges which train in Early Childhood Education (ECD) and first aid."

Another achievement of the project is the assistance of a struggling Zimbabwean family. The family is comprised of a husband, wife and two children. Divine Caring Hands paid two months of the family's rent, bought food, and sponsored the family's trip to and from Zimbabwe to fetch the father's identity card (ID). The man was injured at work and the company had refused to assist him with claiming compensation. The employer insisted that he bring his ID for the compensation fund process despite his having a valid asylum document. The project is still assisting the family because the employer continues to refuse to pay even though the father now has his ID from Zimbabwe. When asked how she identified the family, Handiseni said she had asked the Kuilsriver community members to direct her to needy people in the area.

Divine Caring Hands has also started a canteen business in Kraaifontein. Three members of the group purchased a caravan and applied for space from the City Council. The application was successful and they have started a fish and chips take-away.

The project has a membership of 66, mainly Zimbabweans, Malawians and Mozambicans. It has eight branches in Cape Town which include, Dunoon, Kuilsriver, Kraaifonteen, Phillip, Cape Town, Kensington and Khayelitsha. The largest branch is Kuilsriver and has 26 members.

Most of the members of the project are domestic workers and are given training in computers, swimming, and first aid. The minimum age requirement for membership is 21 years. However, there are three teenagers who have developed interest in the project who are regulars. The group is hoping to groom the teenagers for future membership. The project has become increasingly selective in its recruitment of new members because it wants to work with more determined people. "We want dreamers and achievers, people who would want to change other people's lives. There are some people who are not members but beneficiaries who come for workshops and other events. It is compulsory that members attend all meetings and contribute when donations are needed," said Handiseni. Handiseni can be contacted at dcaringhands [at] gmail [dot] com.

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