My story: Henna Coetzer

By admin
07 November 2013

After her retirement Henna Coetzer and her husband, Chris, started producing books for children. Henna writes the stories and Chris does the illustrations. Here Henna describes how they put together their talents to create a business to look after their daughter.

What’s the expression? Getting old isn’t for sissies. Before you know it you’re wearing glasses and taking pills.

When we were young the word “entrepreneur” was unknown. But we did know you shouldn’t bury your talents.

Now our grandchildren have brought our talents to the fore. Granny Henna must write the stories and Grandpa Chris must do the drawings. Now we’re a team, a winning team. That’s how Storieland’s story books came into being. Our grandchildren have made entrepreneurs of us and we realised with hard work you can trump age.

Henna's husband Chris

We live in Roedtan, not far from Naboomspruit in Limpopo province. I’m 65 and Chris is 67. He still works at a limestone mine and comes home at 5.30 pm every day.

Janie, my daughter, is in a wheelchair. She’s my inspiration, the one who makes me laugh every day; she makes the business run smoothly, ensuring the wheels keep rolling. We would like to use the money we make from the books to give Janie independence.

Janie, Chris and Henna's daughter

Chris grew up and went to school in Nylstroom and I grew up in Gobabis, in Namibia.

I believe my love of stories began on our farm, Brakpitz, near Gobabis. The storyteller was Uncle Frans. He was a Griqua, about 70 years old.

On Fridays he would slaughter a sheep, providing meat for the week, and would entertain us with stories while braaiing sheep’s liver for us in the ashes of the open coals.

I had great respect for the grey-haired old man and thoroughly enjoyed his stories. I wished I too could one day tell such nice stories. He always told us about animals and sometimes, just for fun, he’d throw in a ghost story.

Unfortunately I can’t remember his stories but Uncle Frans definitely planted in me the seed of storytelling. Most of my stories are also about animals. I didn’t plan it this way; it just happened.

We’ve been busy with Storieland for 13 years. We decided to print, bind and publish the books ourselves. This was easier said than done. Little did we know we’d need the patience of Job and the wisdom Solomon.

One of the Storieland books

Our whole house was full of books. We worked in the dining room, lounge . . . all over the house. We made many mistakes, battled and truly paid our dues, but today our books are in quite a few schools.

During the week Janie and I do the printing and on weekends Chris helps bind the books. If he has a chance to draw a picture or two on a Saturday afternoon in between watching rugby I’m satisfied.

Next year our first books will appear in Sotho, and a reading series will be released in English.

The books are packed with proverbs and there are also comprehension questions the children enjoy. There’s an Afrikaans/English glossary at the back of each book too.

We hope we can inspire others to use their talents. Do what you want with full commitment, faith and self-confidence. Keep at it. Try again and again.

We thank God for the talents He’s given us. We ask Him to bless every book so it will be a source of joy for children.

If you’re interested in the Storieland series, contact Chris and Henna at storieland@vodamail.co.za or call 082-259-4459.

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