Can I make you some bucks?

how the net is transforming the way we work and earn

A town where it’s easier to beg April 7, 2008

When in a dorpie you take what you can find. If it’s a salmon coloured bra you want , be prepared to settle for the drab, old black or white nylon lace specials. Or maybe it’s a tin of Chickpeas you’re after as I often am. Well, be prepared to hunt or compromise. Baked Beans aren’t too bad – or so I keep telling myself. On this particular day in the little Eastern Cape dorpie of Grahamstown, my best friend and I were not searching for bras or chickpeas. Scatter cushions. That’s what we were after. You see, she’d recently bought a burnt orange duvet cover with splotches of maroon and now the appropriate cushions had to be found.

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And it was on that day, whilst looking at cushions and discussing colour schemes in PEP, that I met someone who I now think would have an easier time begging. I don’t remember her name. I was so taken aback. I remember the bits of small talk: “Hello Sisi … So you live here or you stay at the University?” She asked about our work and seemed liked a distant friend trying really hard to rekindle a friendship. The catch was the piece of paper she soon took out of her bag. It was a reference letter. She was an unemployed domestic worker and while we were looking for scatter cushions she was trying to find what in Grahamstown can almost be considered the impossible: a job.

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The reality of Grahamstown is that there are more people who are unemployed and searching for a job than with one. And with no employment agency, notice boards at local supermarkets are full of mostly unemployed domestic workers’ contact details (see flickr photos in sidebar for some examples). To be honest, I rarely read these notices partly because I don’t need a domestic worker but also because if I did, I’d ask a friend to recommend one. I may be wrong, but I think most people would rather go that route. So maybe all unemployed domestic workers in Grahamstown should book a pavement corner; practice putting on their sad faces and wait for the passers-by to empty their pockets? Or they could turn to the internet.

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The internet? It didn’t cross your mind, did it? Well why not? There are many online employment agencies – too many to list. There are also useful directories like gumtree which allow you to post and search for jobs. The problem is domestic workers don’t feature here. Enter Facebook.

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Part of my aim in this blog is to see if it is possible to find a Grahamstown domestic worker a job through a Facebook group , still to be set up, called “Need a reliable domestic worker”. Welcome to a different way of finding work. Where the contacts you make online can stand you in good stead for that job you want. But does this apply to everyone? For example , there is a Facebook application , careerbuilder, which is designed for people looking for jobs. But it’s only really aimed at university students. Is there space for Grahamstown’s unemployed domestic workers or should they continue putting notices up at Pick ‘n Pay? Or better yet, maybe it’s time for them to seriously consider begging?

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Any comments? I’ll periodically document my progress on this blog as well as on my Twitter page – feel free to comment and join the Facebook group once it’s set up … I’ll keep you posted.

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9 Responses to “A town where it’s easier to beg”

  1. jozi87 Says:

    Hey Nicole,
    I think the facebook idea could really work because its true that people get people to clean from friends.

    Another issue with the internet is that it requires a certain level of literacy, more importantly, computer literacy. The reality is that many South Africans don’t have access to computers and don’t know their way around the web. So they would rely on a third party to represent them (because people would rather represent them and take a cut of their fee than teach them to empower themselves). As you can see we have a dirty cycle of exploitation!!

  2. I think that this is a very noble endeavour Nicole!

  3. ponsonby Says:

    To expend effort in an attempt to assist those less fortunate than one’s self is truly a gift.

    Nicole, I must commend you on your compassion and complement your brilliant concept.

    Should every person who posts a blog adopt your concept this would go a long way to assist the plight of the unemployed and underprivileged. The potential of the concept of “adopt a person in need” seem endless

    Nicole; a conceptually great and well written blog

  4. L Says:

    jozi87 is right about many South Africans not being computer literate (my parents included) let alone having access to a PC.

    However I think it could work if you put in a little effort into it although finding a job in Grahamstown might be hard conpared to finding a job in a city like Johannesburg.

  5. Angie Says:

    hey nicole

    this idea of yours seems a bit odd… firstly, i assume this domestic worker is poor right? how exactly is she gonna access the internet and see all these job oppertunities that await her??? provided any exist in the first place.

    another thing, even the big cities have lil notices outside their local shopping centre which appear to be quite useful. perhaps its because people need jobs in their local area and this is the easiest, cheapest and possibly only way to find employment near by. opening up a facebook site leave this woman with possible oppertunities that may be completely useless to her for numerous reasons, such as transport problems. perhaps this method that you are so against isn’t necessarily bad, perhaps it works and thats why its used!

    and do you think its fair to refer to this small city as a ‘dorpie’?

    also for someone so ‘concerned’ about the unemployed you seem very flippant about the beggers on the pavement with their sad faces!

    think about your project and your choice of words!

  6. Ty_84 Says:

    Hey Nicole,
    I think that with the technology we have today, it has been made really easy to get your name out there. In my opinion this could very much work as it does not cost that much to get onto the internet at all. All you have to do now days is pop into the local post net and pay a small fee. If they aren’t computer literate then there is always the staff there to help them out.

    It also doesnt take much for us as individuals to help out where we can. If ourselves know any domestic worker, with their approval, put their name on the net.. Some thing like facebook is great as there will be no extra charges… Its a small investment worth making.

    Now i dont know much about the situation in Grahamstown and wether or not it would work there, but this is a small step worth taking. And a step that should totally be adopted everywhere possible

  7. […] Angie Says: April 12, 2008 at 7:18 pm […]

  8. Avrille Says:

    Avery interesting Blog, with well written articles.
    Am proud of you.

  9. […] domestic-workers, online_employment, social_networking You may recall that as part of this blog I wanted to set up an online employment agency for domestic workers in Grahamstown. And I’ve gotten as far as setting up a blog which, to my surprise, a few people found and posted […]


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