Utho Ngathi – A Road to Changes 

At twenty-two, Tumelo Bori with a severe disability spends most of his time seated by the door in a dark tin house in Soweto where he lives with his 65-year-old grandmother Hilda and his two uncles. Hilda took on the responsibility of Tumelo since he was a child after the death of both his parents. With her bent back and poor health, she carries the young man in the morning to his seat after changing his clothes and goes about their living space cleaning and preparing food to make their day as pleasant a possible with little help and almost no resources.

Tumelo and Hilda are not an isolated case and many poor families in Southern Africa live in difficult conditions due to the partial or complete disability of one of its members. This inspired German Andreas Woerster when he was working as a physiotherapist at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital and Health Centers in Soweto to leave his full time job and focus on launching initiatives that help people with disabilities. In the year 2000, he met Masauso Phiri from Zambia and both founded Utho Ngathi together with a group of friends in Germany.

With a vision to unleash the potentials of a million people with disabilities in Southern Africa, Utho Ngathi works on various projects that are sponsored by Evonik Foundation, Evonik employees and members of management in order to provide the necessary care for persons with disabilities, offer them opportunities where either they or their family members can work and earn a living and make Inclusion a reality for their lives.

With a team of only three full-time employees and around thirty-five volunteer workers in South Africa, Zambia, and Germany, the NGO works with Evonik Animal Nutrition to develop the Inclusive Chicken Farm Macubeni with three chicken houses and a greenhouse tunnel for vegetable farming. These projects rely heavily on employing people with disability while offering remote communities access to high quality nutrition and protein. The Inclusive Chicken Farm Macubeni is also supported by Evonik Customers through providing feed and training for persons with disabilities. In addition, Utho Ngathi offers home based care to many families that need help with Persons with Disabilities and provide them with wheelchairs and other necessary survival tools.

Today, Utho Ngathi is busy raising funds for the expansion of this home based care program and the construction of a new greenhouse in a village in Macubeni. Evonik Acrylic Africa donated a Plexiglas Greenhouse to be constructed at the project site in Macubeni for the production of their own vegetable seedlings. With this additional structure more persons with disabilities can be employed and included in a sustainable project for food security. The Utho Ngathi Team is also working on extending the support that NGO offers in neighboring countries such as Zambia.

Thanks to the wheelchair that Utho Ngathi gave them, Tumelo and Hilda can now go out to the market everyday. In this daily trip, Tumelo gets exposed to sun and fresh air, an experience that he seldom had before, while Hilda takes some vegetables from Utho Ngathi’s farm house in Soweto and sells it to make a living for her family.

Evonik team visits Utho Ngathi's greenhouse in Soweto
Evonik team visits Utho Ngathi's greenhouse in Soweto