While the picturesque Valley of 1,000 Hills outside Durban, South Africa, offers stunning scenery to visitors, job prospects for the Zulu people who live on tribal land there are bleak. Three years ago, the nearby Rotary Club of Hillcrest addressed the unemployment rate by partnering with Embocraft, a skills training group serving the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The group offers classes in sewing, computers, textiles, welding, and woodwork, with the goal of alleviating poverty.
Hillcrest Rotarians have co-sponsored four sewing courses, each lasting 15 sessions, for Zulu seniors or others who are unable to travel to industrial areas for employment. "There's not a lot of work available, so people have to travel for jobs. That can require taxis or buses, which are expensive," explains past District Governor Peter Dupen.
The participants – 10 or so in each class – learned to sew basic items such as cushion covers, napkins, and pillowcases on hand-operated machines. The community selected the best students from the first three classes to participate in the fourth, which used electric sewing machines donated by Embocraft and the Rotary clubs of Hillcrest, Winnipeg, Man., and Royston, England.
Hillcrest Rotarians, assisted by the Winnipeg club, made upgrades to the Phakama community center, home to the sewing training class – providing a meeting place for seniors, a kichen area, and a day care center on the other side of the building. The club also added upgraded toilets and wash basins.
The sewing project has been a success, Dupen says, and the participants have sold a number of the items they made. Next, Rotarians will offer training to sew uniforms for the community's schoolchildren – giving the craftspeople some income and making uniforms more affordable to locals. "The whole project is very positive, and we're so happy to work with them," Dupen says.