10 years ago, we shipped our first 40 foot container from the UK to Malawi. Filled with sewing machines and bicycles destined to start non-profit enterprises, that container was the start of something very special. 10 years later, thousands of local men and women (let’s be honest, mainly women!) have completed tailoring training and kept their donated sewing machines so they can start their own business- essential in Malawi where formal employment options are limited.
This is the story of how 2 ladies met, had similar interests and turned their passion into a business and are now able to support their families.
Dorothy Kwapata, aged 36 with 6 children, completed the shorter three month, informal tailoring course in August 2014 and found she had a talent for sewing, but did not know how to proceed in tailoring. To earn some money she started selling cucumbers near where she lived in Sigerege. Doris Mateyu, aged 23 with 2 children, finished her secondary school in form 4 but did not pass her school certificate and was looking for a course in sewing. She heard about the courses in Chilomoni and In January 2015 Doris started training and at the end of the course was able to buy a sewing machine for 9000 Malawi Kwacha (about £9).
Doris used to stop at Dorothy’s cucumber stall on her way home from the tailoring class to chat; especially about sewing, and they found out they both had a passion for creating children’s clothes. With support from a local philanthropist, plans began; a name chosen, fabric and haberdashery purchased and the business launched.
Sanagala Kidz was born in September 2015. Doris and Dorothy work from patterns or their own designs. Doris and Dorothy realized they needed more sewing expertise and took on a rather unusual man. Stornard Jecke is 76 years old and an experienced sewing teacher who was happy to join two friends to help them with the more difficult aspects of making clothes. He now works with Doris and Dorothy 3 days a week. To sell their work they go to local school fairs, have stalls at open days and markets. Word of mouth recommendations have resulted in other customers visiting them at their workshop. They both say running a business is challenging but with perseverance it has been successful.
The tailoring courses are part of Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise, a hub of non-profit business that train and employ hundreds of people in Chilomoni, just outside of Blantyre, in Malawi. All income raised through the enterprises funds a vital children’s centre that offers life changing support and education for hundreds of local vulnerable children.
You can help. Buying Cycle of Good products ensures we can fund more containers and the development of more non-profit enterprise and childcare in Chilomoni, it’s why it’s called the Cycle of Good!