But what I am doing feels extra special. I am talking about The Bag of Hope project. I’m not trying to blow my own trumpet here - I’m not doing this on my own. Lee, my sister, Ruth, and her friend, Maurean, are involved and all the wonderful, cheerful characters that make up the Amandwe Support Group in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. We are truly a grassroots organization.
It’s primarily women helping women. We are nearly all women - except for Lee and a couple of other males involved. The story behind the project is this:
A group of unskilled women in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal, formed a support group for those living with HIV/AIDS, especially the orphaned children. But with a lack of skills, their problem was how to make some money. They lack skills but not determination. They believe in “Vukuzakhe“, Zulu for “Wake up and do it for yourself.“ They formed the Amandwe Support Group - Amandawe is the area they live in.
They are learning to sew and embroider, tutored by Ruth. They produce little fabric landscapes or pictures made from donated handmade and dyed fabric and thread. Ruth’s friend, Glenda of Amafu Fabrics, donates this glorious mountain of colour. Each picture is different and charmingly simple. Some depict African life, some are whimsical, others are embroidered over the hand-dyed fabric. They send the landscapes to me. Once here, Lee irons them on to canvas tote bags. I set up a website, face book page and the bags sell for $30 at my gallery. All profits go to the group.
The group think big - they participated in a community center to provide education, support and material help for the needy. They run a soup kitchen and feeding program for the little ones, a portion of the money from these bags goes directly to the soup kitchen. This is a safe zone for the children.
It is very heartwarming. But the thing that really amazes and enthralls me is to see how the ladies in the group have grown in confidence and artistic ability. When they started they made these little simple landscapes. We sold them. They made bigger and better landscapes - we sold more. They blossomed. Now the landscapes are more complex. They are still charming, emotional, funny and beautiful. The ladies quite rightly take great pride in their achievements. They are making money, “with my own hands,” and this modest sum means an enormous amount to each and every one of them. Not to mention the children they care for.
There are now similar projects in the U.K., Canada and Australia working with the group. A couple of the ladies have made and sold their own bags. They are fighting the odds and making progress and are more successful ever year. Go to the website and face book page (click LIKE of course) and see what we’re doing. thebagofhope.com
|One of the latest landscapes for The LadyBug Shop here in Milford. Landscape by Elsie.|