Due to the AIDS pandemic and other social problems, there are many women who are the sole breadwinners for their families, and many of these are ill-educated or unskilled. Rural Home Industries (RHI) has been training such women to sew and knit, to make garments they can be proud to own or sell. They have also been taught how to bake various snacks to sell in their communities.
Over the past year, one woman has used her cooking skills to make and sell jams, whilst another has opened a tuck shop in her local community. A further lady has begun selling food to visitors and patients near a local hospital.
The project was originally started in July 1992, with teams of women running sewing classes in B-Block on the Gateway site. The trained became the trainers, and more than 200 women have been taught valuable sewing skills. In 1994 knitting classes were also started.
Over the years, Rural Home Industries has started a number of sewing clubs based within the township communities, not only in Pietermaritzburg but throughout Southern Africa. As more women were trained on site, they have been able to share their skills, giving many women skills to support themselves financially. Materials donated to Project Gateway such as fabric and wool are distributed to the needy through RHI.
The programme has also been extended to include stewardship of a rural community creche at KwaNgubeni, giving advice on healthy eating and nursery teaching, and also helping with a garden to provide vegetables.
Since 2006 RHI has been assisting Life Abundant Ministries (LAM) in providing food
for the poor in the local community. They
feed approximately 100 people, twice a
week. Often, visiting teams of overseas volunteers assist in preparing the food. This year we have also been able to teach baking using a stove donated to Project Gateway
and passed on to LAM Centre.
Also at LAM, Eunice, an ex student, has visited regularly and taught 5 women to sew on machines donated to Project Gateway.
The women have made sheets and pillowcases to sell in their local communities.
Rural Home Industries has been run for many, many years by sisters Edith and Rene Stevenson. Now in their late seventies and early eighties respectively, Edith and Renee have finally decided to retire! RHI as it has been will cease to exist from January 2010, but many of the groups started by Edith and Renee, will continue to flourish with ladies that have been trained by RHI.
If you would like any further information about the work of RHI, please contact Merle Perumal at Project Gateway, who will put you in touch with the right person.