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Tailoring for Cash, Sewing for a Living

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]We took a dusty road outside Dzaleka refugee camp, turned north and headed towards some distant hills. The motorbike we were riding billowed dust and gravel as we sped past huts, trees, small farms, a couple of ox-carts and herds of livestock. A few excited children standing by the roadside cheerfully waved at us. We were in the middle of Phanda community, a rural setting about 10 kilometres from Dzaleka Trading Centre. However, we were not there to appreciate the scenery or ox-carts that we passed, rather we had travelled all the way to this area to meet William Alick. He is an alumnus of our vocational training programme, having graduated in 2016 in tailoring.

20 minutes later, we came to a stop outside a bare ground facing about eight houses. We had arrived. A group of men sitting outside one of the houses welcomed us warmly and sent for William, who was not there at the moment. A few moments later, William showed up and took us to his house. It was a smart, albeit small, house and the living room had a table and a manual sewing machine. A few clothes were neatly packed in cartons while some newly sewed ones dangled from hangers on the wall. Another bundle of clothes laid on the table, waiting to be worked on. It was how an ordinary tailor’s house looks like.

“You want to know why I chose tailoring?” He opened the conversation as he drew a chair and sat next to his sewing machine. “It’s because it has always been my passion, I have always wanted to do tailoring to fill the shortage that existed around this community.” William continued that before he opened his tailoring shop, the nearest tailor was located some 5 kilometres away and people had to travel that long to seek tailoring services. Right now, his shop is the only one in his community. Besides that, the man went on, the tailoring profession does not demand a lot since one can work at home.

The tailoring shop he established is always busy and William receives around 10 customers per day. He explained that the demand for his services in the area is too high and that although he tries his best to serve all customers, sometimes he cannot manage to handle the large number of people seeking his services.

“Right now, we are passing through a period when a lot of weddings take place and I always have piles of clothes to make.” He smiled. The high demand, William explained, is largely because he trained in the basics of customer service courtesy of the business training that we provide to our vocational training students.

“When I was doing the course, we were taught the importance of customer services and the need to respect client’s confidentiality.” He spoke boldly “I apply the knowledge I gained and this has helped me to build trust with my customers and create a loyal customer base.” William further remarked that this has set him apart from other people in the tailoring trade. The tailoring business has boosted the economic welfare of his household too. William can now buy basic necessities for his family as well as his 7 children, who are all in school.

“I used to buy school uniforms but now I can sew the uniforms right at home. Even better, whenever my children ask for school materials, I am able to buy them.” Previously, he experienced difficulties affording such needs because he was depending on agriculture.

William is a maize farmer and recently he has ventured into tomato farming. However, farming is unreliable since prices can fluctuate leading to huge losses. William faced a similar problem with his farming business. He explained that since launching the tailoring shop, he has an alternative source of income which has significantly improved his social welfare. Most importantly, the business is supporting his agricultural activities too!

“I am using the profits from the shop to purchase essential farm inputs like fertilizer for my maize and tomato farm.” William’s tailoring business is very profitable and he makes about MK50,000 per month.

“I am very thankful that There is Hope helped me reach my vision by offering me this skill almost for free. I can’t believe I obtained this knowledge by paying only 500 Kwacha.” He appreciated, referring to the heavily subsidized fees our students pay. William admitted that the opportunity he was accorded is rare since it is extremely expensive to train for such qualifications in other vocational schools. He explained that one particular school charges around MK60,000 for a tailoring course which is a huge sum of money to someone living in the rural areas.

“To be frank, where would someone like me get all that money?” He wondered. As we drove back to our offices 2 hours later, William’s story reminded us again how our vocational training programme is reaching out and making an impact to vulnerable people.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][/vc_column][/vc_row]