Anna and Anchynne

It was a typical summer’s evening in Wupperthal, still heavy with the heat of the day. Slowly though, as the sky grew dark and filled with stars, an occasional burst of wind blustered through the village and brought some relief. I sat in the dark, thinking about the next day and wondering what Anna’s story was going to be.

I was jolted awake by the braying of donkeys – they don’t wait until sunrise like roosters do! I sat outside for a while, savouring the cool quiet of the pre-dawn morning. Anna and I had arranged to meet at her house at 6:30 and it was time to set off through the village.

Anna Skippers lives in Langbome on the outskirts of Wupperthal. On the way to her house I noticed several people taking advantage of the cool of the early morning – digging, weeding, directing water, harvesting the allocated plots of land where Wupperthallers grow vegetables to help feed their families.

When I arrived at Anna’s house she was persuading her five-year-old daughter, Anchynne, to comb and tie up her hair. Once that intricate process was complete, Anchynne snuggled onto on Anna’s lap and we sat outside for a while, talking over a cup of coffee. The children in that area normally pile onto the back of a van for the short trip to school, but that morning Anna and I were going to walk Anchynne to the crèche.

We set off, Anchynne swinging along beside us, and sometimes asking to be picked up – she is very attached to her mother.

Anna’s mother, Christina, was born in Wupperthal. Her father, Kerneels, is originally from Citrusdal. They met while picking and packing oranges in Citrusdal. They then moved to Wupperthal, where Kerneels stays busy with all sorts of odd jobs and the family keeps pigs and sheep. Anna is 26, and she and her sisters, Michelle and Chriselda, live with their parents. Anna has a nickname – some people call her Esme. Her young nephew, Tomlin cannot say Esme so he calls her May-S.

As we walked through the village we heard laughter and cheering. A stream of wiry, barefoot children ran past us up the hill – their legs pumping, their little faces looking very determined. And then we saw the rest of the school on the open field in the middle of the village, practicing for their athletics’ day.

I used to love athletics,’ Anna said. She told me how she had won several prizes for her sporting ability. Until Standard 7, Anna attended school in Wupperthal. She then went to Clanwilliam to complete her schooling. It was there, in her final year at Clanwilliam High, that she won the prize for best athlete.

After leaving school Anna worked for a grape farmer in Klawer. There she met Arno, who was later to father her child. For a couple of years Anna moved between Klawer and Radyn, working on farms, but she settled back with her family in Langbome when she became pregnant.

After Anchynne was born, Anna spent a year working for Water Affairs where she was trained in the removal of alien vegetation. It was gruelling work, exacerbated by the extreme heat that descends on Wupperthal in the summer months. But Anna had heard that there was a soap factory starting up in the village …

At the last moment she filled in the application papers. Not only did being accepted onto the Red Cedar team bring Anna in from toiling in the hot sun, it has also opened up so much more in her life. Anna is good with her hands and she soon discovered how much she enjoyed the production side of the Red Cedar business.

At this point in the story we reached the crèche, where a sizeable group of children are nurtured by three teachers. It’s a comfortable, welcoming space and the children are actively and happily engaged by the activities on offer. Anna is on the crèche committee and they are looking at how they can improve the premises and include more children from the outlying substations.

After Anna had hugged Anchynne goodbye we found a couple chairs and sat in the shadow of the building to finish our chat.

Anna does not see or hear from Arno, but seems perfectly at peace with this. Life is good with her extended family. She bought a television with her Red Cedar bonus money and likes nothing more than to enjoy her new purchase in the evenings and on weekends. She has a ‘biltong and chocolates’ man in her life – an admirer who sends treats her way but makes no demands. It sounds perfect!

As a Moravian, Anna was entitled to apply to the church for a piece of land where she could grow rooibos. This was granted to her and her first harvest is due at the end of February. She pointed to a dirt road which scales the heights of the mountain and said that there was a cluster of homes up there. When she is farming she stays there but has to travel quite some distance from there to her piece of land. Farming is always a team effort. She repays some of the people who help her by helping them when their turn comes. Others she pays out of her Red Cedar earnings.

Through the training she has received and the exposure which has come her way since she joined Red Cedar, Anna feels that her personality has come out of hiding. She used to be very shy but is now quite comfortable talking to customers and selling the Red Cedar products. Working for Red Cedar has enabled her to grow into a happily fulfilled, confident young woman.