Austin used the SBF grant to buy wood. He already had a chisel, plane, and saw.
On our first day of site visits in Manyamula, Malawi, we met Austin Panday, a carpenter and a recipient of one of the most recent Small Business Fund (SBF) $150 grants. Our big group moved out of the sun and squeezed into the cool shade of Austin’s workshop, wood shavings underneath our feet. With me were three SIA team members from North America, seven SBF Coordinators from Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda, and two interpreters and COMSIP members from Manyamula. (English is taught in school and it is one of the official languages, so many Malawians know English. The local language in Manyamula is Tumbuka.)
Austin’s shop is right near the central market in Manyamula. He is renting space until he had enough to build his own shop.
Austin told us his story, now a familiar narrative in this town that until recently had very little economic opportunity. “I went to South Africa to seek employment. I was there for four years. When I was deported back to Manyamula, I had nothing to do.”
Austin, with his carpentry skills and his certificate from the nearby Mzuzu Technical School, was a good candidate for a Small Business Fund grant. He had great potential and a grant would give him the start-up capital to buy wood for constructing bed frames, cabinets, and shelves. There has been high demand for his furniture.
Austin continued his story: “Canaan Gondwe saw something of potential in me. Now, I’ve been doing my new business for three months. I say ‘thank you’ a lot. I got out of drug use. My life has changed tremendously for me and my family.
“I bought six bags of cement and now I am doing plastering on my house. I bought one goat. Our basic needs are met.”
“Canaan Gondwe saw something of potential in me. Now, I’ve been doing my new business for three months. I say ‘thank you’ a lot.”
Sharing the Gift
It’s not only Austin’s family that is benefiting from the business. In addition to all the people who are enjoying his beautiful creations, he is also training a 19-year-old boy to help in the shop. “I’m sharing the gift,” Austin told us, even before we asked. He was proud to be paying-it-forward already. (Read more about Sharing the Gift.) In this way, each Spirit in Action grant ripples to benefit a whole community.
After hearing Austin’s story and admiring the shelves he was building, we left to move onto the next SBF group in the area. As we left, we encouraged him to continue the good work, “Chito iweme. Good job, Austin!”