Almost six months, but not quite, into our latest sewing project with the ladies at Umziwethu in Marselle, near Kenton on Sea, and what beautiful things they are producing! The standard is good, and I was so pleased to see the variety of things they were producing:
I was so proud to see these labels or something similar on every item the Umziwethu ladies had made. Travelling on from Kenton into the Karoo, I visited several craft and souvenir shops and felt proud of the standard of sewing that these ladies have achieved.
Of course, there is more to be learnt, but sewing relatively simple items to a high standard is a great start, and we are hoping to continue to help these ladies, and others to support themselves through sewing.
In January 2022, Ade and Christina were in Kenton-on-Sea where they met local entrepreneur, Tanya Fouché. The result? Khanya and Tanya are partnering in a new project to teach local ladies to sew and to train others. Here Tanya and talks about the project and tells her story
The Marselle Sewing Circle
I'm all about supporting local and my shop stocks only local products.
When I opened my shop, Silver Linings, in Kenton, I tracked down a sewing circle in Marselle Bushmansrivermouth, across the river. I met the ladies who had been gifted industrial sewing machines, probably by the Department of Rural Development, but they didn't have any materials, haberdashery, nor training, nor route to market. These ladies have no business skills either as they've only done domestic work.
I appealed to our local community to donate old materials that they didn't need and they generously donated items so the ladies could start sewing.
The germ of an idea
When I met Christina and Ade in 2022, I saw an opportunity because these ladies (and most of our community) do domestic work during the December season and for the rest of the year they live on grants. So why not use those eleven months to train them for more sustainable work?
Silver Linings will be a platform to market the goods produced by the ladies, when they reach a sufficient standard.
Khanya is sponsoring the ladies for six months to get them to a stage where they are able to train new, younger recruits next year. I am marketing the products into the game reserves and curio shops where we are offering to brand products. The game reserves are very interested in the products. I have spoken to a few and will be visiting them in September, just before the season starts. In this area winter is usually very quiet so we've used the opportunity to get some training done and get the sewing skills up to standard.
I trained in marketing and was in corporate for a decade. When I had my children I decided to become self-employed, which was 17 years ago. I started with a corporate gifts and clothing company in Mossel Bay. I was widowed when my kids were six months and four years old so moved to Port Elizabeth where my family lived. I started a guesthouse and ran that for over 10 years then moved to Bushmansrivermouth. After lockdown I saw a gap in the market for a little shop and wanted to support the local community.
At school I did some needlework, but not much. I really started sewing when I was 18 and ended up making all of my own suits in corporate. I would make five-piece suits: a lined blazer with a pair of trousers, bermuda shorts, a shift dress with a skirt to match and my clothes always looked fantastic. I was very fortunate I had a friend who taught me tailoring tricks so the clothing came out looking like it had been shop bought and not homemade
I believe in sharing knowledge so I’m delighted that now I can pass on my skills to the ladies at Marselle. When you share knowledge it can only expand.
Congratulations to all of our 'graduates'. Some of them already had the basics and the course reinforced their understanding and introduced new skills. Others learnt the basics from scratch.
Here, Lucky January, gives his impression of the course.
Becoming a bricklayer transformed Khanya Chairman Ade Lusmore's life. His vision for Khanya is to pass on those skills, and the opportunities they offer for changing the lives of others, and their communities.So he was excited to discover a few years ago that Grahamstown Makhanda is home to one of the largest brick manufacturers in South Africa, Makana Brick.
For the last couple of years he has been exploring the possibility of running a bricklaying course at Makhana, and for the first two weeks in May Ade will run a masterclass in bricklaying, and will also teach the basics to two teachers from Amasango.
This is a great opportunity to upskill and improve the life chances of ten young people.
It’s also an opportunity to begin to train the trainer at Amasango Career School. The school is likely to be moving to larger premises in the near(ish) future and this will present opportunities for teaching brick-work and consolidating learning. Of course, you don’t become a ‘brickie’ in ten days, and Ade plans to go back later in the year to spend time at the school reinforcing and developing the trainees’ skills.
Pictures and report will follow soon, but in the meantime we wish Ade bon voyage.
Ade was back in Grahamstown Makhanda briefly in February. He was able to visit Amasango and see the hairdressing and beauty skills salon in action.
There was practical as well as theoretical teaching going on, it was good humoured and the students were clearly enjoying the new course.
and in other news
Ade was also trying to finalise the details of the forthcoming brick-laying course which was due to take place in the early months of 2023 but will now take place later on in the year.
It's good to be able to report also that Ade was able to meet Jane Bradshaw, inspiration and mentor to Khanya. She is now in Johannesburg in very well deserved retirement.
In September Ade was in Grahamstown/Makhanda briefly. Then in November Ade and Christina were in South Africa together for nine days. All good intentions to write about our visit were overtaken bye Christmas - so here is a better-late-than-never brief run down.
First stop, the Sewing Studio and here we are, left to right, Christina, Robyn Cooper who organised the last iteration of the course, Sabelo Bill tutor, Sipahle, star pupil and Ade. We are standing in Jane Bradshaw's lovely garden. and has now moved to Jo'burg where we wish her well.
Next we went to Kenton to meet Tanya Fouche - seen here with Ade - who hopes to get a sewing project off the ground with a little help from us.
These beautiful cabbages were grown by Masimini who has been teaching his neighbours to grow their own. It wasn't clear if there would be a role for us in this small but important project, we are keeping in touch and will wait and see.
From Grahamstown/Makhanda we drove north through the Eastern Cape and the Transkei - where the roads are challenging to put it mildly. We went to the Donald Woods Foundation. At the moment the foundation is inactive and the facilities we saw are mothballed. But they hope to start up projects again in the next year or so, and there may be some possibility of partnership with them down the line.
We are freshly back from Greenbelt and any day now Ade will be flying to South Africa, he is going for the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament in Cape Town, but will also spend a few days in the Eastern Cape saying the briefest of 'hello's to our partners and friends there.
In some ways a chance conversation at Greenbelt in 2017 was the spark that led to Khanya. Ade and I had spent a fortnight volunteering at Amasango Career School at the beginning of the year. That August bank holiday, over a pint at the Jesus Arms, Ade said he couldn't get out of his mind that many of the learners wouldn't go on to high school and would have a trade or skill with which to earn a living. He was thinking about going back and talking to a few people, he said.
Ever one to grab an opportunity for some winter sun, I invited myself along for what turned out to be a fascinating visit. We returned knowing that we needed to raise some money and to do that we needed to have a proper organisation charity).
My desire for a bit of winter sun led me to something infinitely more worth while. Ade's trip to the Rugby World Sevens will be so much more than just that. Visits to partners in South Africa, no matter how short, are valued by them and always valuable for us.
As for Greenbelt – just in case you were wondering, it's a faith, justice and arts festival. Where else would you be able to hear refugee Gulwali Passarlay above (The Lightless Sky), Richard Dawkin, Rowan Williams and Caroline Lucas in the same weekend, learn felting and willow weaving or join a pop-up choir?
It's been a busy July: first up was the summer BBQ which raised a little shy of £1,000. We are immensely grateful to the vicar of Fulham for the use of her shady garden which came into it's own on a hot afternoon.
Chairman Ade sizzled sausages to perfection on the braai, our trustee Rob and treasurer Jer staffed the bar, and friends and wives helped with the catering.
Vice-chair Christina is about to sample a burger, not the first time she had tested out Aid's braai-ing skills and the burger passed muster.
Quite obviously as well as having a really lovely afternoon we couldn't not think about fund-raising and made a particular plea for supporters to set up a standing order to give a small amount regularly (and huge thanks to those who did on the spot). It is so much easier to spend money wisely and well when you can budget for what you income is going to be.
The following Saturday saw the trustees gathering to consider our five-year strategy, more than ably led by trustee Adrienne Hall.
We pondered our values, our vision our mission and who are partners are. When challenged to suggest what are goal(s) might be in five years time "changing 100 lives" was debated and embraced with enthusiasm.
There is a lot to digest, and there will be more from this session in future blogs.
Our new set of trainees at the sewing skills studios are making some great clothes now. Here Nombulelo models her latest creation. Nombulelo is unbelievably happy to be able to sew a garment and wear it. Considering she was shaken at first by the sound of the sewing machines, we're impressed with how well she's settled in.
Sibabalwe, on the left, is getting assistance from Zusiphe. Zusiphe was trained in our very first programme and now she is an assistant trainer at the Studio.
Here you can see Sibabalwe making and modelling her own jacket.
Congratulations to all of them on the progress they are making, we look forward to showing-off more of their achievements.
Christina Thomas is a trustee of Khanya and serial volunteer at Amasango Career School.