Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Plan Comes Together!

Kleinbooi the day we filled in his application for employment with the feedlot company outside our town. In the rush to get him to his work on time last week, I forgot to photograph him in his new clothes!

When my older son, John and his wife,Debbie left Marquard in October, they continued to pay their house-lady, Albertina and gardeners, Simon and Kleinbooi for a further six months. The condition attached was that they came and helped in my house and garden. In return for helping me, I gave them each two meals a day.

During this period, I placed posters all over town advertising their respective skills. I found employment through this avenue for Albertina and Simon. Kleinbooi, on the other hand, while working for Debbie and with her help, received his Code 10 driver’s licence. Debbie also took him to an ophthalmologist where he was fitted with prescription glasses, paid for by John.

At the beginning of the year, once Albertina and Simon were placed, I asked my younger son, Angus who works for a feedlot just outside town, to bring me an application form. Kleinbooi and I duly sat at the table in the garden one morning and filled in the form. Afterwards my husband, Grant took it along with a letter of recommendation from me, to the Human Resources manager who said there were no vacancies at the moment, but he’d be in touch with me as soon as one became available.

The weeks passed with no word from the HR manager. February the 28th marked the end of the six-month notice period for John’s employees, and at this stage Kleinbooi disappeared into the township. Last Friday Angus phoned me with a message from HR: they wanted Kleinbooi at work on Monday morning at 9.30 sharp!

Grant drove around town checking on the street corners where the unemployed sit in the hope of being selected for piece work. (this is temporary work, paid by the hour or daily, normally garden jobs) Still no Kleinbooi. He drove to the township to search for my gardener, David at his home. Nobody home. I phoned David, who has his own cell/mobile phone and to ask him to find Kleinbooi and tell him to come up to our house. David’s wife answered and said he was out fishing. Later I phoned David again and this time he was home, but I could hear by his slurry speech that he’d been to the Tavern after his fishing expedition...

Saturday morning Grant drove to the township and came across David walking up the main road. When he stopped and asked whether he’d seen Kleinbooi yet, David, who was not entirely sober up, said “No use looking for Kleinbooi; he’s drinking way across town”. The township is a huge sprawling settlement with over 60,000 inhabitants so my husband realised it was no use looking for Kleinbooi that day.

Monday dawned bright and clear and as soon as David arrived at work, we asked him if he’d been able to find Kleinbooi. His reply? "Tjee" (Sesotho for "no"). While driving down to the township to fetch Emily, which we do every day, Grant came across Kleinbooi ambling up the road to town. He stopped and explained that we’d been looking for him all weekend and that we need him to come to our home to prepare for his first day at work.

Well, when hubby arrived with Kleinbooi, I noticed that this gentle African man had been on the tiles; probably the whole weekend. His eyes were bloodshot, his clothes were rumpled and his hands were shaking. I asked him if he’d like to have a shower while we find him some new clothes. Emily poured a jug of iced water and sternly told Kleinbooi to drink it down.

Grant and I dashed into our bedroom and he began to look through his wardrobe for clothes for Kleinbooi. He found a pair of long khaki trousers and belt. Next he slid a long-sleeved yellow cotton shirt off the hanger and passed it to me to add to the trousers. He found a pair of socks, while I rummaged in my bathroom cabinet for a new toothbrush which I always keep as a spare. Last but not least, hubby found a brand new pair of designer label underpants/boxer shorts, which I had given him as a gift but he’d never worn as, according to him, they looked uncomfortable (!)

We gave all these items to David to hand to Kleinbooi in the shower. Within a few minutes Kleinbooi emerged, looking a lot fresher than when he’d arrived although he was still a little shaky. Emily emerged from the house carrying Grant’s shoe-cleaning kit. Giving it to Kleinbooi with instructions to clean his shoes, she also reminded him to drink his iced water.

Minutes later Kleinbooi got into the car with Grant who drove him out to the feedlot. On the 12km / 7 ½ mile journey Grant told him that he was getting the chance of a lifetime. Employment is in short supply in our country and especially in our town. He reminded Kleinbooi that missing work as a result of drinking at night, would not be tolerated by the company. Once they arrived at the feedlot, Grant introduced him to the farm manager who took him to his place of work.

Mission accomplished.

Note: Kleinbooi returned that evening to tell us that he'd been driving a tractor on the farm all day. We marvelled at the change in this man's attitude and body language. He was cheerful and positive. We congratulated him on his achievement and gently reminded him to look after his career by acting in a responsible manner, even after hours.


  1. Jo, how wonderful that your family has done so much to help this man. I also know how very difficult it is to find employment in South Africa at the moment - especially that which pays a decent wage - and how prestigious a driver's job is - he is very lucky ! May your family be blessed, too, for helping him :)

  2. Hi Lynda, my husband and I rose surprisingly quickly to this challenge; especially when it became stressfull (like not finding Kleinbooi in the Township) We obviously thrive under pressure ;) I hear reports from my other staff members that he is very happy and that they are all envious because he has this prestigious job now. I've sent a message for him to come and tell me first-hand when he has time over a weekend. Thank you for your kind words. Hugs Jo

  3. I agree with Lynda, wholeheartedly. You & your husband are special people.
    I'll be interested to hear about Kleinbooi's progress.

  4. Thanks Dedene! I'm hoping Kleinbooi will pop in sometime and let me know how he is getting on. Hugs Jo


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