It is an early start to the day in beautiful, Nomzamo. I’m assisting the team who are handing out 500 fleece blankets to less fortunate community members. There are wonderful conversations on the go, and everyone is getting to know each other a little bit better. 

Nonkqubela, one of our Themba Training Alumni who had made these blankets, looks on from the side, pride evident in her eyes. To think that only 11 months ago, Nonkqubela arrived at our Basic Sewing Training course, barely knowing how to switch a sewing machine on. I feel very privileged to have been part of the team to produce these 500 fleece blankets for this event, knowing that 2 people benefit from each blanket here today: the person receiving it, and the person who earned a skill AND an income making it.

It doesn’t get better than this, I think.

I look around the sea of people and suddenly see a familiar face. Olwethu is only smiles and joy as I walk over to greet and quickly catch up with him. We talk for a while and it is almost difficult to remember the shy, untrained man who lacked confidence at the beginning of his journey with Themba Training. 

I met Olwethu early in March 2018, at the same course as Nonkqubela: Themba Training’s first Basic Sewing Course at our new venue in Strand. He barely spoke a word during the first 2 days, only carefully and almost anxiously watching as we went through the training steps, making sure he copied everything he was taught perfectly. Subsequently, Olwethu started with his first contract at Themba Training a month after completing his training. It was during this first contract, assembling products for a local conference, that he told me about his dream of becoming a fashion designer. Throughout the rest of 2018, Olwethu proved to be a trustworthy, eager-to-learn and very neat sewing contractor who assisted with a wide variety of our contracts during the year. At the end of 2018, he stated that he felt ready to apply his skills in the open labour market and would not be joining the sewing team in 2019. We wished him well, and were very sad to see him go…

Never did I expect that seeing him on this beautiful morning in Nomzamo, almost exactly a year after first meeting him, he would tell me that he has not only secured a local full-time sewing job but that he will be enrolling in a fashion design course at a local college in 2020. “Getting trained and working at Themba Training has been the best thing in my life,” he said. “I am now able to support myself and build my dream, thanks to Themba Training”.

And with that, he gave me a huge hug and confidently walked away.

What more can I say: this day is truly beautiful!

Written by Marla van der Merwe


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