Committed childcare volunteers sew for extra income

Tshandama Lukau Drop-In’s Sewing and Beading

These hardworking and caring women started their sewing business in 2009, making school uniforms and traditional Venda attire and jewellery at first. Now they also make modern interior products like table runners and place mats with a traditional Venda, Tsonga and SweSwe twist on order.

Drop-In centres’s volunteers care for vulnerable children

Tshandama and Lukau are two adjacent villages in the Mutale municipality of Venda in Limpopo. Thirteen women started this Drop-in centre at the Lutheran Church Lukau during 2002. Drop-in centres are informal volunteer-groups caring for vulnerable children in their communities and have to apply for, and manage their own funding and finances.This Drop-in centre looks after 150 vulnerable children of Tshandama and Lukau daily. The children are mostly either Aids orphans or from parents who left for employment in bigger cities or on farms far from home. The centre feed the children after school, support them with homework and do activities with them.

The South African Children’s Act prescribes requirements for optimal early childhood development when delivering services to vulnerable children and youth so that children are valued, protected and can reach their full potential. Drop-ins therefore look at nutrition and broad-based care, with access to education, health services and social welfare in their own environments.

Started sewing and beading in 2009

In 2009, after the ladies identified sewing skills in their group and a local market for their products, they started the Tshandama Lukau Drop-in sewing and beading enterprise as an extra source of income. They made school uniforms at first and later added traditional Venda attire, wedding dresses and traditional beaded jewellery.There are 13 volunteers with 4 people sewing, 2 child and youth care workers, 1 general worker, 4 cooks for the drop in-centre and a coordinator, administrator, and manager. The workspace and office is in a traditional round hut. The children are cared for at the old small Lutheran Church building about 300m from the office with the mountain as backdrop and a huge indigenous fig-tree on its side.

Making school uniforms is the sewing ladies’ main business during the first quarter of the year; they make uniforms for 2 primary and 2 secondary schools in Tshandama and Lukau. These are mostly tunics and skirts for girls and shirts for boys and girls. Traditional outfits became very popular too, it continuously change to new styles and colour-combinations as local fashion demand. To go with traditional clothes they also started to make traditional beaded jewellery. These are items like the traditional beaded belts and necklaces that Venda women love to wear, especially during frequent community gatherings where traditional dances are done as well. Plastic beads are used because glass beads became so expensive lately.

Various workshops attended at Madi a Thavha’s Textile and Design studio

During 2014 five sewing ladies attended a workshop at Madi a Thavha mountain lodge where they learned to make jewellery for a tourist market, new patterns for traditional inspired clothing and a Venda range of home interior products and bags. All beadwork on these products are done with glass beads however, as plastic beads are not in demand for this market. During Madi a Thavha’s follow-up mentoring visits they identified the need for a bigger workplace and support to get the sewing business more independent from the Drop-in centre. They have 3 sewing machines and 2 over lockers financed by Funders who encouraged them to expand the sewing enterprise as another source of income for the volunteers.

The group chose one of their sewers, Esther Makhado to do some follow-up training at Madi a Thavha where she learned to make necklaces for a European-tourist market, earrings, bracelets, newer style men shirts, bags and table runners in different styles. Esther is a Venda woman and was inspired by her fellow Tsonga–workshop participants to make a rather intricate adaptation of a Tsonga, Xibelani dancing skirt too. She also learned how to make traditional dolls with rope, textile and beads.

Tshandama Lukau Drop-in now make new style ‘Mandela’ men shirts, cushion covers, table runners, pot holders, aprons and place mats, incorporating Venda, Tsonga and Sweswe–print fabrics, on order.

Contact details:

Gloria Makhosi – Administration manager Tel 082 7346062

Esther Makhado – Manager sewing enterprise Tel 071 282 9844

Email address: tshandamalukau@gmail.com – we check our emails at an internet cafe in Lukau regularly