Bulungula Incubator’s goal is to sustainably end poverty in a generation. We emphasise “in a generation” because genuine, transformational change requires time and incremental success. Since our work started in 2007, we have seen first-hand the positive impact of our projects and organisation on the lives of people in our community.

Nopumzile Makhwenkwe was born and raised in the Xhorha Mouth Administrative Area, where BI operates. Growing up, she did not have the opportunity to complete primary school, leaving her unable to read or write. In a region marked by limited access to education and one of the country’s highest unemployment rates, Nopumzile struggled to find work.

Tragically, like half of the women in our community at that time, Nopumzile lost a child to diarrhoea disease because no clean drinking water was available. Her children had to leave home to attend a high school far away, making it incredibly challenging to complete their education successfully. Given the difficult circumstances, only one of her six children was able to finish high school.

Nopumzile has worked for BI since we opened our doors.

Since opening Bulungula Incubator, Nopumzile has worked with us as a dedicated cleaner, gardener and cook. Nocawe, her daughter, also works full-time at our seedling nursery, while her son Thando is employed nine months of the year through a government job creation programme (EPWP) that we help manage.

Nocawe working at Masilime Ngqo, BI’s vegetable seedling nursery.

None of Nopumzile’s daughters have had to endure the heartbreaking loss of a child due to preventable diseases. Now, with only a 10-minute walk to Bulungula Health Point, they can easily access medical care and vaccinations for their children. All of her grandchildren attended our preschools, and the diligent growth monitoring of our community health workers further ensured their healthy early development.

Thimna, Nopumzile’s youngest granddaughter at BI’s Jujurha ECDC.

At primary school, Nopumzile’s grandchildren receive extra maths tutoring from our iiTablet Tshomiz programme. Now, her oldest grandchild attends Bulungula College, working towards being the second person in her family to graduate from high school.

Yesterday we had our Matric necktie ceremony at Bulungula College. This ceremony, where learners receive their Matric necktie from their loved ones, is more than just a rite of passage into their final year of high school; it is a significant public acknowledgment of an achievement that only few from our community have ever reached. Siwaphiwe Makhwenkwe, the eldest granddaughter of Nophumzile, who also attended Jujurha ECDC, received her necktie from Phatisile Makhwenkwe, her grandfather (Nophumzile’s husband) who is also a headmen of our village.

Siwaphiwe Makhwenkwe with her grandfather Phatisile Makhwenkwe (Nopumzile’s husband)

Nopumzile’s story shows the upward social mobility that Bulungula Incubator has unlocked for families like hers. The path to ending poverty is long, but we are committed to walking the last mile together to create a thriving rural community.