For some people living with disabilities, the default means of earning a living is begging on the streets. Francis Munyongolo, however, belongs to the larger group of people living with disabilities who live by the maxim ‘disability is not inability’.
The 45-year-old is a cobbler with exceptional skills which were honed with the help of the Malawi Council of the Handicapped (Macoha) at Magomero in Chiradzulu.
After graduating from Magomero in 1995, he set shop in Limbe, Blantyre, repairing shoes and other footwear. Over the years, he has developed a dedicated clientele as people got used to his work.
So good has the business been, Munyongolo says, that a lot of people come from far and wide with their footwear for him to repair, some referred to him by satisfied customers.
“I always do my best to satisfy my customers’ need. People usually give me more work to do if my previous work on their shoes or sandals was impeccable,” he says.
Among other challenges that he faces in his business, Kanyongolo complains of some clients’ tendency to take their time before collecting their repaired footwear, which, he says, makes him spend more on rentals at the warehouse where he stores his materials.
Kanyongolo further cites the environment in which he is operating as an impediment to his business.
“As you can see, I operate my business under a mango tree. As such, when it is raining I don’t do business at all and that affects my earnings,” says Munyongolo.
His earnings through the business might be minimal but that has not stopped him from providing for his family and buying iron sheets with which he intends to build a house.
Looking into the future, Munyongolo dreams of buying equipment with which he would make new shoes.