Tabisa Mahlathi grew up in the small Eastern Cape town of Mt Frere. After matriculation at the local high school, she studied at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology where she obtained a qualification in Environmental Science. A few months after graduating in 2014, she heard of a vacancy at Mhani Gingi and was chosen to join the organisation. “I have grown in the Mhani Gingi organisation a lot over the years,” Mahlathi says. From being Nursery Assistant, she has risen to Project Co-Ordinator. This role entails overseeing the day-to-day running of the Mhani Gingi Organic Herb and Vegetable Seedling Nursery as well as management of 15 surviving community gardens, after the 2016 drought in the Western Cape decimated most of 35 food gardens being supervised by Mhani Gingi. Mahlathi trains the gardeners, monitors progress of the gardens, and takes orders for the sale of garden produce.
“I have also been able to take care of my mother’s medical bills and in the year 2021 managed to buy my very first house through the Mhani Gingi stipend. I have also learnt to save money for rainy days through the training which Mhani Gingi provides for its employees,” she says.
In addition, Mahlathi has come to value ‘giving back’. “Through working for Mhani Gingi over the period of six years, I have learnt about the power of giving back without expecting anything in return. I have also learnt and experienced working with vulnerable groups, people with disabilities, youth at risk, and Early Childhood Development schools.
“Through working with these different groups I have learnt that life is not about where you come from, but more about where you are going. Also, it is not about your disability, but about the ability to get work done.”