How I Helped Equip a Sewing and Tailoring Workshop at Kwa Mkono – Suhina Patel

In December 2014, I undertook a project at the Polio Hostel in Kwa Mkono, a village located about a 5-hour drive from Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. Polio Hostel is one of the programs supported by Polio Children. This was my second project after my visit to SKSN in India in December 2013, where I taught a course in First-Aid to high-school students. This time, however, I was better prepared and much less anxious. 

After consulting with Father Simon, who oversees the Hostel operations, we decided that the students would benefit most from assistance with sewing and tailoring.  He told me that many of the high school students were unable to pursue further studies due to financial reasons or poor grades; so, for many of them, sewing and tailoring would be a vocation that could make them independent. I learnt that the school had several sewing machines but few sewing materials in their workshop. From a sewing class I had taken in school, I was able to compile a list of essential materials. Armed with the list and many coupons, I hit the local stores in Rochester. At a checkout counter, when the lady found out why I was buying 12 pairs of scissors and tons of needles and threads, she gave me a special discount!

Demonstrating the use of different sewing gadgets to the students at the Polio Hostel. At far right, is an ex-student who will be conducting formal classes. 

When we reached Kwa Mkono, unfortunately, there were only a few students present as the rest had gone back to their villages for the Christmas vacation. Luckily, the small group present was very interested and intrigued by some of the gadgets, such as seam rippers and needle threaders, which they had never seen before. On the other hand, they showed me the creative ways they had developed to run the treadle-driven sewing machines despite their physical handicaps. The maintenance guy (a polio victim himself) was thrilled to have lubricating oil, which he could use not only for the sewing machines, but also for wheelchairs! It became evident to me that the students had a fairly advanced knowledge of sewing and tailoring, but lacked in material resources, which I was happy to supply. Father Simon said he felt confident that the workshop will now be able to make uniforms for all the boys and girls of the hostel at the workshop

Bidding ‘kwa heri’ (good-bye) at the end of the demonstration

Once again, my stay at the Hostel was brief. But in that short time I was there, I witnessed how creative people could be in accomplishing so much with so little. 


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