The Power of a Village Dream - A Narrative by Mokopane Ledwaba

A child that is not embraced by the village will burn it down just to feel its warmth.

I grew up in the dusty streets of Mohlonong village in Ga-Mashashane and like many other rural kids, I used to dream of being a professional when I grow up. The ultimate goal was just to have a very good job, drive sports cars, and build a luxurious house for my family.

It is almost everybody’s dream to be successful and reputable. I lived with this dream most of my life until I got my second tertiary qualification and a job. Those who know me personally know that I hopped from a job to pursue that childhood dream. It seemed like the more I grow the more that dream seems to fade away. When I look at the unemployment rates and other economic issues that affected the township and rural communities, I noticed that our dreams are dying.

I had to literally analyze my dream only to figure that it does not really speak to me.

As Africans, it is not in our DNA to have materialistic dreams before our roots. I had to redesign my dream and my life took a most welcome U-turn. I realised that I am a product of my community, I started appreciating it more.

Fortunately, for me, I met a man (Themba) who had a dream that was about helping people rediscover and go for their dream. Having recently rediscovered my dream myself, I had no choice but to go for it. I immediately, without any hesitation, quit my permanent job to work with Themba to build a brand that is today known as VAYA Sneakers.

For the first 6 months of this business, I was the only full-time employee in the business. When the business was nothing but just a dream rediscovered, the community of Ga-Mashashane came through to uplift me. Today, VAYA Footwear is slowly making waves throughout South Africa and across borders and I am proud that the community of Mashashane pushed it to give it that much momentum. Our dream is to empower individuals and communities.

Most of the customers of VAYA Footwear’s first 100 customers were Mashashane Residents. Although some residents could not afford to support the business in financial ways, many took it upon themselves to be ambassadors of this partly homegrown business. They shared, posted our pictures and stories on social media. If we could support all ambitious local artists, businesses, and other dreamers the way we supported and groomed VAYA, we will strive as a community.

For every rand that you spend, you are either worsening our economic inequalities, or you are building your community.

I am Mokopane Ledwaba, and I am a brand manager of VAYA Footwear and I am where I am today because God choose my community to pick me up and I will do my best to pick up my community. This is a plea to support, nurture, and promote local brands because if we give our residents the warmth they deserve, they will never burn us down but they will rather empower us.

Thank you Mashashane. Thank you, South Africa.