Local actor, author, TV presenter and entrepreneur Louw Breytenbach, from Gauteng’s East Rand, has teamed up with his domestic helper and good friend Sindiswe Mavimbela to start a domestic services business.
Louw says the main aim is to provide Sindiswe with a business that can provide her with income as she heads towards retirement.
“Coronavirus lockdown impacted us not only in terms of being conscious of mental health but also definitely being resilient and finding new sources of income. That’s not just about money but providing a service,” Louw says.
“I do believe that we grow and we find purpose in serving others. The cleaning initiative was inspired by the fact that I’d to come to a point in lockdown where I realised after all these years, I could no longer afford to pay Sindi. But because she’s family – she’s literally my second mom – there was no way that I was willing to let her go.
“I talked to her and said to her, ‘Sindi, I need to find you a job because we can’t do this.’ Then she told me, ‘But you need to find a job because you also don’t have an income’.”
Though he wasn’t 100% serious about it at first, he soon realised that it wasn’t such a far-fetched idea.
“We brainstormed and the joke suddenly became reality,” he says.
“I posted on Facebook and somehow it went viral, and so [the business] Ma Sindi’s was born.
“I decided if we’re going to do this, we’re literally going to go through this together. That means both her and I will be cleaning.”
Louw and Sindiswe plan to register the company and start a Facebook page, with the main aim being to provide Sindiswe with a sustainable income for years to come.
“What we hope to achieve is to provide a service to other people when they’re maybe lonely and stuck in their houses,” Louw says.
“We come in full PPE [personal protective equipment] and adhere to all the Covid-19 regulations – sanitisers, temperature scanners. We have our own Covid forms that we fill in for both our customers and for ourselves to make sure that every safety precaution is taken, both for ourselves and for them.”
Louw, a former presenter on DStv’s Via channel, has decided to turn his mental health issues into an advantage.
“Because of my OCD [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder], clinically diagnosed, I love packing things. I love organising and I love cleaning, so it’s not a job I do out of desperation – it’s really a passion to clean and it helps to declutter my mind,” he explains.
“For Sindi, it’s an income while building her business because that is the ultimate goal. We provide a community service and hopefully it reaches much further, beyond just the two of us.
“No job is beneath you. Cleaning is a service that people tend to look down on but it’s really hard work. I don’t think domestic workers get the recognition or the compensation they deserve.”
Louw hopes that the venture inspires others to build resilience during lockdown.
“If a TV presenter and a theatre owner can clean house, then sure as heck there must be hope for everyone else,” he reckons.
“Whether it’s helping online or serving at a food station in your community or volunteering at the SPCA, everyone can do something to get off their butts during lockdown and make a positive change during this time.”
His theatre, the LALT Theatre House, is also where Louw started an awareness initiative called the Gate of Hope. The Gate of Hope at the LALT Theatre House is where green ribbons are tied to raise awareness for the struggles of people living with mental conditions such as bipolar disorder, personality disorder, depression, general anxiety disorder, OCD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The colour green represents mental health, according to Louw.
“If you’re out of reach or not in the Ekurhuleni area, you can send an email and a ribbon can be tied on your behalf,” Louw says.
“Green is for hope, for life and for growth and people with mental-health disorders know the green ribbon very well.”
You can reach Louw via his Facebook page for more information regarding his cleaning services and email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info about the Gates of Hope initiative.