Maria Maile 02

Hosts on Airbnb awarded funds to help see them through covid crisis

To help hosts who are waiting on Government guidance about the safe reopening of tourism, Airbnb has distributed R1 million in financial relief. The funds have been allocated to Airbnb Africa Academy hosts, many of whom are from under resourced areas around the country and have come to rely on Airbnb as a source of income to support themselves, their families and their community.

Developed as part of Airbnb’s $1 million commitment to inclusive tourism in Africa, the Airbnb Africa Academy has provided training for 220 people ‒ with 70% of participants being women. Recipients of the fund are hosts who previously received training through the Academy, enabling them to become micro-entrepreneurs using the Airbnb platform.

From hospitals to hospitality

One worthy recipient of the financial aid is Nombulelo Msizi who runs a B&B in Langa. At 70 years old, she was still able to earn an income through her own business using Airbnb and support her 9 and 12-year-old granddaughters who currently live with her. She says that it has been extremely difficult not being able to earn an income since the lockdown began and she has also found this time lonely while she is unable to host guests.

With the funds she has received from Airbnb, Nombulelo plans to maintain her home and carry out repairs to ensure the future of her business. She will also purchase PPE equipment and the necessary supplies to clean and disinfect rooms for future guests.

Having worked previously as a cleaner at Groote Schuur Hospital, her cleaning expertise is to hospital standards, ‒ a skill she believes has contributed to her status as a ‘Superhost’. Her career switched from hospitals to hospitality and she has worked in various roles in many well-known Cape Town hotels including The Ritz and The President Hotel.

“I’m looking at doing all those things and at the same time assisting those who are struggling more than I do,” she says.

Nombulelo has been using her sewing skills to make masks, which she sells to earn an income while she can’t host guests. She sells these at a reduced price or gives them to people for free to protect them and to ensure less spread in her community.

She says: “The life we are going to live is no longer going to be the same. In order to have that protection, we need to get behind the mask.”

Moving towards a brighter future

Stoan ‘Move’ Galela, is a professional dancer and choreographer, who teaches dance classes in Khayelitsha to give children in his community an outlet to be creative, to fight depression and anxiety, to get exercise, and to learn to focus better ‒ ultimately, he says, improving their education to set them on the right path for life.

He learned to dance from his next door neighbour, and it changed his life. Since he was very young, he has competed in dance competitions using prize money to pay for food and supplies for his family and other families. Now, he aims to pay it forward and teaches dance to help improve the lives of others as he believes dance is a powerful tool to steer young people away from gangsterism, teenage pregnancies and finding shortcuts to make money.

“When you teach dancing, it’s positive. Maybe it’s the music. If you feed young people with positive things, it’s a tool to allow other positive things inside them,” he explains.

He also teaches dance to locals and tourists through his ‘move to the township rhythm’ Airbnb Experience, which provides him with income to care for his 12-year-old daughter, Alatha, as well as the 22 children he teaches and their families. He has been unable to teach or work as a dancer since the start of lockdown.

As a recipient of the fund, he says: “This money is going to change so many things. The kids I teach are not just my dancers, but they’re my kids too. I take care of them.”

He plans to fix his mother’s house and buy winter clothes for his ‘kids’ because, as his mother taught him, “nothing makes you happier than helping other people”.

Healing through helping others

Maria Maile is another host whose life has been affected “tremendously” since she has been unable to have guests in her home.

“We have really compromised through this time and sacrificed a lot of things. It’s hard staying at home with your family looking at you, the one who is supposed to be feeding them. It’s been difficult. I had to stop some debit orders to use the money I had to eat and stay healthy,” she says.

Maria lives with her daughter and three grandchildren (aged 8, 18 and 25) and, she says jovially, “And you know how they can eat!”

With her grant money, she says she will prioritise food and electricity and, with recent heavy rains and wind causing flooding in her home, she will allocate funds for necessary repairs. She wants to be cautious with her spending, however, because there’s no way of knowing how long the pandemic will last.

“It’s very easy to be depressed through this time,” she says, adding that reading through her guest book is usually a source of positivity for her.

Now, she is using her time to help others in her community because, as she explains, “doing good is healing”.

This article was first published by IAfrica.com on the 11 July 2020. 

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