Beading for Bread

Ethel Fanelo was born in Cape Town in 1949. Now 69 years old, she lives at her home in Nyanga with her four grandchildren, her sister, and her sister’s husband. Ethel receives a pension grant of R1,600 ($135) per month which she uses to buy food and basic necessities.

But as with many elderly people in South Africa, this pension is stretched across the extended family and very little, if anything, is left for the senior’s own self-care.

“The pension is better than nothing but it’s not enough for my grandchildren and myself, and I have to pay the rent too,” says Ethel. “My daughter helps by giving me food when I am short.”

Ethel attends the Noluthando 2 Senior Club, where she has opted to join the Relate beading project. In partnership with Ikamva Labantu, this project allows seniors to earn supplementary income from beading bracelets for the non-profit organisation, Relate.

“The beads have allowed me to be a good grandmother,” says Ethel. “I use all the money from beading to buy bread and to help with bus fares for the children’s school.”

Ethel is one of 18 seniors at her club who have joined the beading project. Collectively, they earned R27,875 ($2,345) in 2017. Sazi Gunya, the Relate Project Manager, remarks that the club is very good at beading. “Especially me!”, Ethel chimes in.

And she may well be one of the best – craftwork is not new to Ethel. When she divorced her husband of 11 years, she started working as a seamstress to make ends meet for her two young daughters.

“I love sewing and I still have a sewing machine in my house but I’m too old to use it now. That’s why I like beading – because my hands need to work. If I don’t bead my hands will get stiff; I need the exercise. These beads make me happy!”

Ethel Fanelo attends the Noluthando 2 Senior club daily, where she is provided with two warm meals, healthcare and counselling services and exercise activities. She is one of 410 seniors taking part in the Relate income-generation project across 19 Ikamva Labantu senior clubs.