71-year-old George Phontshe Peni has been selling ice cream along the Blouberg beachfront for as long as anyone can remember; now that he is retiring, the community he has served is raising funds to support him.
Blouberg, South Africa (30 November 2021) – George Phontshe Peni from Khayelitsha, Cape Town, has made an honest living selling ice creams along Blouberg beachfront for over 40 years. He has become engrained in the fabric of the community and earned a place in many hearts.
‘Uncle George’, as he is affectionately known, is an icon in the community. He is credited as a kind, warm-hearted man who has been blessed with patience in this life. Over the last 40 years, come rain or shine, he was seen peddling his ice cream bike along the beachfront, chatting to all he passed by.
Uncle George not only sold his ice creams, sometimes he would give them away for free to children that didn’t have the funds for a tasty, cooling treat. His kindness has been celebrated by the community, which is why they are paying it right back and raising funds so he can retire with some peace of mind.
As he has reached his retirement years, Uncle George has continued to sell his ice creams, but it has become clear that he is struggling. He no longer has the stamina to ride his bicycle but rather pushes it along. Often too, he misses days as he cannot afford the transport anymore.
32-year-old Blouberg resident Michelle Nel formed a special friendship with George, despite their different backgrounds, age gap, and language barrier.
“When you see an older person almost every other day working with the commitment and contentment of George, you cannot help but take an interest in their story. The more I saw George, I couldn’t help but envy his equanimity in the simplicity of his lifestyle. It’s like he figured it out, you know.” – says Michelle
Hearing his stories, she eagerly took notes, hoping for the opportunity to one day share his story with the world. But sadly, as it often happens, life and work took over, and the loosely translated tales of his life were misplaced. Over the years, she grew deeply fond of George.
With a suggestion from her husband, Regardt Nel, Michelle decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy with a fundraising target of R50 000, hoping to surprise George with a pension fund to support him and his family in the long term.
Reaching out to neighbours and posting on community groups, Michelle was blown away when the campaign soon reached over R23 000, with the support of 57 donors, each sharing heartwarming interactions with George over the last 43 years.
“My kids are 18 & 20 now, in their toddler years they’d run after George with great excitement & he’d always patiently wait while they made their ice cream choices. More than happy to contribute.” – Lorna
“My little Elli who’s 11 now got many free ice-creams as a baby when our nanny used to sit & chat to him at the beach – I’ll definitely support him thanks” – Lou
“Grandson was rewarded with a free ice cream for helping George lift his bike up the ramp at Kleinbaai thanks, good idea.” – Estelle
Having helped set up a banking account for George, Michelle hopes that he will have an easier life and have the means to fix his home and buy furniture.
“Thank you to the Blouberg community, for all you have done to echo the impact George has had to you. While he didn’t ask for us to do this for him, I know, by seeing his face as he reads through your donation comments that he is grateful beyond words. The commitment and love you have shown, proves that together we can make a genuine change in people’s lives.” – says Michelle
If you have a memory of George, share it in the comment section. You can also support his pension fund via BackaBuddy here.