Here's an article I wrote for our Swaziland Peace Corps Newsletter:
Over the course of two Saturdays, July 19th and 26th, girls from my community gathered at the Phatsekani Bomake Sewing Association to stitch their way into a new skill. Taught by 8 women from Velezizweni’s very talented sewing group, 20 girls ranging from ages 7 to 23 learned how to use hand-crank sewing machines to design pillow cushions and tote bags. And, of course, they also participated in 2 HIV education sessions focusing on prevention, transmission, and healthy living.
Funded by PEPFAR’s Mini-Vast, the 2-day workshop was filled with tea and cake, kumnandzi lunches, and fun with fabric….and fabric paint. Day 1 proved a messy undertaking as leftover batting and splotches of fabric paint covered the tables after a long day of pillow designing. Finished products included lots of flowers (yea, we were pretty girly!), stars and moons, suns, squiggles, prayers, and nicknames. After clean-up, the girls went home happy and the teachers went home to nap.
Day 2 went slightly better as there were 2 girls to show up on time—yes, that’s right, they LISTENED to my plea to start at 9! After a rousing game of elephants and lions starring my 7 year old sisi as the baby elephant, we discussed balanced nutrition and healthy relationships. All the while, they were itching to start their bags. Each girl chose 2 colors to sew their bags and immediately jumped in line for a turn on the sewing machines. By the end of the day, they were sewing like pros and cat-walked their new tote bags up and down the length of the building. Again, they went home happy and the teachers looked exhausted.
Wrapping up the 2 day workshop, Gogo Vilane (“Gogo V” as she told the girls to call her) thanked the girls for their participation in the workshop Kutfunga Kanjani (How to Sew). To my surprise, a participant piped up after her speech—she thanked the teachers, Temusa (Helen), and myself for our time, sacrifice, and work in planning the workshop. My jaw dropped at this display of maturity and gratitude and my exhaustion dissipated. I was just as giddy as the girls and walked home with my bosisi strutting like models with their new hand-made accessories.