It has been a busy start to the year with students heading back to school, college and university but over at The Sewing Café, situated between Masiphumelele and Kommetjie, a new class of adult learners is also making a fresh start. Eleven ladies from the township have started the six-month life skills program with a view to graduating in July and owning their own sewing machine. They also had a special visitor this morning as Masicorp founders John and Carol Thompson were in attendance, together with Jane Philippi from the USA funding team.
Each morning the women are tutored to improve their English language skills and learn basic computing skills. Today they were pleased to take a short time out to chat to John, who was amazed to find that some of the attendees had been living in Masiphumelele for as long as 25 years. There are eleven women in each six-monthly intake and this year only one of them had completed matric while not a single learner had ever used a computer before the course started. The course really is a life changing experience for everyone who can attend.
The course also supports Nonny’s bakery in Masiphumelele who provide lunch for the ladies each day.
After lunch the practical classes start with each learner having their own sewing machine to work on. On successful completion of the course each learner gets to keep the machine hence there is a real incentive to keep attending. With the course fees completely covered by Masicorp, the program has become very popular in Masiphumelele. In fact all of this year’s attendees heard about the course by word of mouth and its popularity ensures there is no need to advertise for places.
Each lady will work on a practical project to complete a dress for their graduation later in July. They get significant assistance from graduates of previous courses who return as assistants. In fact four of the six teachers on the course are former graduates of the program. The life skills are taught by volunteer Wendy Ryan from Evangeline Ministries who took the time to show our overseas visitors around today. It is Wendy’s seventh year of running the program and we cannot thank her enough for all of her efforts.
Wendy’s hope for the future is that the commercial arm of the project will take off and provide more work opportunities for the graduates. Previously we have reported on their efforts to help the local community. Athene Kannmeyer, who manages the commercial work explained that several students return to work on contracts with local clients including bag making and mattress linings for crèches. Later this year two quilts produced by the team will go on exhibition with a view to being marketed in the USA. Another organisation they will be working with in the future is the Sparrow Society –a local social enterprise. Many of the graduates work from home and a group are even looking to join together and form their own business but the more commercial projects that the sewing café can secure the more work they will be able to guarantee for graduates.