A Story of 3 Generations of Beach Traders – Transcending Adversity

If you are like me, I love listening to stories, but not just any story – personal, authentic stories of HOPE, RESILIENCE and COURAGE. We heard many stories during our stay in Goa, but Lola’s story will stay etched in my memory for a long time.

Lola and Sally

Lola (35 years old), like her mother before her, has a makeshift stall a few metres away from one of the many beautiful beaches in Goa that she hires at 10 000 rupees per month – that’s roughly R2000 per month – from a couple originally from the UK who run a restaurant – very strategically positioned, as in order to get to the beach you must pass Lola’s stall and the restaurant. Lola, together with her little daughter, Sally (7 years old) as she calls herself, and her mother and a few other little children are there every day plying their trade and Lola always had a beautiful smile for everyone whether you purchased anything from her or not.

Lola and her family live in a village about 20 minutes walk from the beach and they sell their wares from 8am in the morning to 8pm at night. Lola does not read or write, but is determined that little Sally (her only child) will – and a few of her little friends gather at the restaurant for English lessons.

Richard and Lola's Mother

The tourist seasons starts from around September/October and runs through to April just before the harsh monsoon conditions make it impossible for them to trade as the tourist season also ends then.

Lola went on to share her story of how she saved her husband, who usually works in the rice-paddies, from the abyss of addiction to alcohol and sometimes drugs, and how she used her hard-earned money to send him to a rehabilitation centre far away from the village to cleanse him. Today, her husband is working two jobs – during the tourist season he works on the beach as a tour guide and continues to work in the rice paddies. Lola’s pride was in the fact that she was able to break the mould that women from her caste are perceived as submissive and passive and that with the right attitude and, more than ever, the courage to take charge – it can be done.

Richard and Lola

You can guess where we spent most of our rupees – at Lola’s stall. Not out of pity for Lola, but Sally, her daughter, was the chief sales lady and convinced me that everything I looked at suited me and that I would not be able to get it at a better price anywhere else in Goa – off course I did not argue with Sally – the carefree little girl – who crept into our hearts with her lovely smile and her tenacity even as a little child.

A conversation about Asset Based Community-driven Development for me always has as its starting point stories like Lola’s, and off course this does not mean that Lola does not have challenges and problems – but Lola did not focus on what is not working but rather on what works for her and how she makes it work – no-one has the same story!!