Friday, 17 August 2018

Kenya reflections 2: Sewing group

The first business I set up at Utange Primary came about in response to the needs of the school as well as those of the parents. I mentioned in my last post that the school is in a very poor area. As such, many families really struggle to afford school uniform for their children and as a result I noticed on my first visit (two years ago) that many pupils were wearing incomplete or very torn uniforms.

Susan suggested that I fund a business for a group of women so that they could make school uniforms, which they would be able to do more cheaply than the local shops. "Our pupils will look smarter and the families will have an income," she told me.
So this business was established 18 months ago.

Four women employed a tailor to teach them to make the uniforms (as they had no sewing expertise prior to this).

Through generous donations I was able to sponsor uniforms for around 15 children. On this trip I took out sponsorship, thanks to two large donations, for over a hundred more children. This will be used to provide both uniforms and school shoes.
In my visit this time, I immediately noticed how much better dressed the pupils are now (as the photos testify). Jane told me that this has had a large impact on the mood of the school - pupils have a new sense of self-worth. There are still a few pupils who will benefit from new uniforms,but by no means as many as there were two years ago.

The sewing group is doing very well and is branching out. They have been able to add another lady to their group. They are now making a wider range of items - traditional dresses, bed linen and table mats, for example. I took out the materials and patterns for them to begin to make washable sanitary towels to sell in the village and to the school (who provide sanitary protection for the girls, so that they do not miss school when they are menstruating).I also took out two of my bags, which the ladies were keen to copy. Finally, the group have successfully bid for the contracts to make school uniform for two other local schools.

It was such a delight to meet with these ladies and to see how proud they are of what they are doing. They are now acting as mentors for the more recent business start-ups.

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