From volunteer to visionary

Great BritainSouth Africa

When Tumisho Mashego decided to volunteer for 12 weeks, he wasn't expecting to come face-to-face with one of the biggest problems in his country – hunger. But from volunteer, to visionary, he's now determined to see breakthrough.

As the demand for organic food rises in the UK, and grow-your-own veg becomes a trendy option, more and more of us are getting our hands dirty and enjoying the health benefits of managing our own veg patch. But for most of us, it’s not a matter of life or death.

In South Africa, it’s a different story.

Mom Mafahla
One of the community garden leaders, Mom Mafahla, explains how they use the produce

Going green-fingered

Earlier this year, South African born Tumisho Mashego joined Tearfund’s 12-week volunteering opportunity, funded by the UK Government. As part of the International Citizen Service (ICS) Tumisho, together with a team of 18-25 year olds from the UK and South Africa, worked on various projects that had requested the help of volunteers.

‘During my placement we helped in some of the urban community vegetable gardens. I was really touched and proud because it’s their own work and they put their all – hand and heart – in their gardens.’

Tumisho was amazed at the potential he saw in the gardens, which were carefully maintained by the grandmothers in the community.

‘The community gardens literally radiate a healthy breath of life and sustenance into the surrounding community. The fresh produce is given away by the grandmother-farmers to the sick and poor in their area and sold to neighbours.’

Sowing the seeds

Finishing the 12-week placement, Tumisho headed back to his home community near Johannesburg. Encouraged to take some sort of action at home based on his experience, he couldn’t get the idea of community gardens out of his head.

Tumisho was shocked when he did a little research. ‘12 million South Africans, almost 25 per cent of the population, go hungry on a daily basis. Only 45 per cent of South Africans are categorised as “food secure,”’ he explains.

He believes that community gardens have a major role to play in changing these statistics.

‘I visited community gardens in my home area, working with them, planting seeds and other things, and also interviewing those people who are involved in the project. I managed to gain knowledge in how to plant vegetables, and with the experience I gained I will continue teaching around the community.’

Growing vision

Tumisho is excited by the potential of developing community gardens. He is passionate about how they not only alleviate hunger, but also foster the development of a community identity, bringing people together from a wide variety of backgrounds and enabling the development of community leaders.

Looking ahead, Tumisho has been inspired and is dreaming big.

‘I want to see everyone running a home garden, community garden or a small farm in their community. We need to develop a national micro-farming movement. A project like this will help eradicate poverty.'

Tumisho Mashego volunteered on the Tearfund ICS programme. Tearfund ICS is a VSO led programme, fully funded by the UK Government, that gives anyone aged 18-25 a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend 12 weeks volunteering abroad in Bangladesh or South Africa

Over 25? Tearfund Go have opportunities for anyone to volunteer overseas.