Malvern Shekede (South Africa)

Growing up near Harare International Airport, Malvern enjoyed a comfortable childhood. He never dreamed that by the time he reached adolescence he would “have to suffer life as a man as a boy and look after the whole family.” Born in 1971, Malvern Shekede was the fourth of five sons. Both his parents worked for Air Zimbabwe and also enjoyed a small food production home industry to supplement their income. By 1984, however, the Shekede family life circumstances had altered drastically.

His father had developed a drinking problem and subsequently lost his job; he didn’t receive any benefits since he was fired for inappropriate conduct. The family had to move out of their company home. His health deteriorated and they sold their other property to pay for his hospital bills. By the time Malvern’s father died, they had spent much of their life savings on his expenses. When his mother lost her job in 1985, Malvern stepped up to take the family burden onto his young shoulders.

“Going to school was difficult. I had to school myself by selling tomatoes, vegetables and trying to do everything to survive. Of the five sons, Malvern has been responsible for taking care of the family. It was then that Malvern began his career in craft, sculpting wire motorbikes and helicopters to sell to tourists and across the border in South Africa. “All the money I got, I used to look after my family.” He travels back and forth between his family home base in Zimbabwe and Cape Town to achieve this exhausting feat. Back home, his mother has suffered a stroke and broken her leg. His wife and two young boys (ages 2 ½ and 8 years) reside with her, but he is their sole provider. He feels guilty that at times he wasn’t able to even pay rent let alone send money home to his mother.

Times have been tough as Malvern has not yet settled into Cape Town living. The odd jobs he had obtained from other sources were exploitative of his desperation and hazardous to his health. Now at African Home, he is receiving ongoing work opportunities.

“I’m not after big things. The most that I want is to live a normal life and give my family food. Although I’m aiming high, for the first time I just want a decent job.” “ I’m very serious about my job. I like my job. I have the opportunity to get a plot in Zimbabwe to build my own house. It’s my greatest dream to build my own home and to get to pay it off.”

Fair Trade Organization