By Thina Katangana
In 2013 Margareth Garises took the brave and bold decision to make a life for herself and for her children.
“I was asking myself how can we survive and eat everyday and if I die, what will I leave behind for my children,” she says.
With determination and fortitude, Garises and her husband brave the elements of nature on a daily basis and head to the edge on Windhoek, on the B1 highway, to buy empty bottles from hawkers, the homeless and even some business people, and resell them to the Namibia Breweries and to Distell Namibia.
The area surrounding them is of thorny and rocky terrain, exposed to the effects of the weather and the dangers of the veld.
Garises used to spend nights at their place of business, until they were accosted and robbed one night. As a result “the men stay behind at night to safeguard the bottles. I just come every morning from Okuryangava and I go home by 20:00.”
Asked what she was doing to survive before she began her bottle return business, Garises tells how, as parents of 7 children, their situation became more and more dire when she and her husband both lost their employment and she decided to “stand up and do something for myself.”
Just a stone throw away from the affluent Kleine Kuppe suburb is where Garises and her husband “media-shy” husband eke out the struggle for daily survival. “I used to be closer to town there,” she says, “but they told me to move because they are going to build a road there. That is how we ended up here.
It is not safe here but what can we do? My customers know where to find me and we have a relationship for many years now. I can’t afford to pay rent for a building, so I am here on this little hill, trying my best to survive and put food on our table.”
Garises buys bottles from her clientele for a few cents at a time and re-sells them for a few cents more.
The exercise can be cumbersome and yields only about N$2 000.00 in profit monthly.
“When I have enough empties then I rent a small truck. We go to the breweries to buy empty crates, because they do not accept loose bottles. So I come here and we leave the crates here. After some days when I have enough money again, I rent a truck again, to take the full crates to the brewery.
I get a refund for the crates which I am returning, and I get my money for the empties. Sometimes it takes a long time to have enough money to hire a truck; that is why these bags full of empties are standing here, as you can see. If I can get enough crates to transport these empties that are here, then it will be very good for me,” she explains.
Garises’ second youngest child Junior, 3, hangs onto his mother’s skirt tails and is a shy but friendly boy. He is not the baby anymore because he has a 5 month old sister waiting for them when they get home at night. “Life is not easy, but we carry on,” Garises says.
“We have had some trouble here with the police and with the municipality. On the day we were robbed, we opened a case but till now nothing has come of it. The municipality keeps telling us to move from here. I told them ‘give me a place to go to and I will move.’
This is the way I have found to feed my children. One day when I am not on earth anymore, maybe they can continue the business, and who knows, maybe they can even make it bigger.
I just want to show them that with hard work it is possible to do anything and even though we don’t have everything, God is still looking after us and keeping us together as a family. It is only with his grace that we are still here.”