Sour Milk Ethel July 2, 2019
Sour Milk

Every morning I come in and begin my day at Vheneka with a cup of coffee. Coffee at work has offered me two things: ultimate comfort and a crippling caffeine addiction. There is consistently a sense of chaos at Vheneka due to the unfinished construction and hasty actions of staff. Coffee has offered me a staple and anchor in the messiness that comes with working at a new non-profit. There is not a day that passes that hasn’t been hectic in the past month I have worked here. Crazy? Yes, but it is a chaotic good. Getting established and fully functioning in a new office is not easy, but the process is rewarding. My cup of coffee is warm, peaceful, and the caffeine is necessary to start any work I find that day. Coffee offers me retrospection in the waiting that is more than necessary, especially when your coffee gets ruined by sour milk.

This morning, after getting settled and briefed on all the things occurring in the office today, I went to make my cup of coffee. Coffee in South Africa is a little different than in the US. They use instant coffee and a hot water kettle instead of brewing a pot, so when I make my cup of coffee I put in the mix, sugar, and milk before adding the hot water. This normally works out just fine until I poured sour milk into my cup. Bad milk is no big deal, but I felt bad about wasting resources. Non-Profits do not have much money to spare. Of course, I just rinsed my cup out and made a new one, but it got me thinking about the significance coffee has played in my experience at Vheneka.

My first week at work it was explained to Maddy and I that construction was supposed to have been done in April. Due to many odd circumstances, this had not been the case and we were nowhere near having a completely functioning work space. We spent most of our time in the common area, the office, or board room doing research and other work. These rooms were littered with spare, donated furniture and drywall dust. The office had been partitioned to function as a workshop, office, and transitional home. Nothing could begin until we got some order for our program and office. Deliveries were not being made, installations were not occurring, and the program dates kept having to be pushed back. It seemed like we had everything to do and nothing at all because the construction was so tentative. Our work and transitional home kitchen were not functioning at first, so there was no coffee. Thinking back on that week, the acquiring of a kettle was a sign of progress. It meant that we had a partially functioning kitchen, coffee and tea really excited everyone.

For the past 4 weeks we have tried to get off the ground the best we can while waiting for furniture to be moved, fixed, and installed. The waiting that accompanies construction can be a silent killer of morale. It is frustrating when we cannot begin our programs and projects due to the chaos that surrounds us. Vheneka is a small non-profit, only two years old. An office move and renovation are such large indicators of success that in the moment we often forget. Today, we have had the electrician, plumber, movers, and kitchen equipment men in, and it is not even noon. Today feels like we broke through the ceiling that has limited our growth for months. There are immense smiles on every staff member’s face, including mine. Though I started my day with sour milk, today has quickly turned around. The joy we feel stems from a firm belief in the work Vheneka is doing. With our studio kitchen functioning the ladies we work with can finally cook in their own space. In full faith of construction being completed we began our program two weeks ago. We have a space, a home, a heart.

The progress of Vheneka over the past month is not to be boiled down to this one day. The advancement of our program and efforts are the consequence of hard work put in for years and months. Daily we do small things for the big picture—our life changing programs and a nice cup of coffee. There is still chaos, there will always be chaos. In the waiting, we learn, we help, and we grow. I drink my coffee every morning from the same cup. I start my day with consistency because anything that happens after that is so unknown and unpredictable. Yes, there may be sour milk and we may be tired of waiting, but we get a new carton and get back to work. Vheneka is women getting things done on every level. So, if you have sour milk and immense frustration, buckle down and get back in the hustle.

-Written by Vheneka Intern Alex

Vheneka is by women, for women

If you feel inclined to assist Vheneka we are a non-profit that runs entirely on donations. We are in need of financial donations, books, magazines, and women’s hygiene products. You can donate on our website or contact us at for inquiries and assistance.