Practice makes perfect

After so long, I’m finally back in Zambia. Oh, how I have missed this place. The people, my friends and family, the vibe, not to mention the Kwenuha ladies….

To be honest, I’ve been three weeks in Zambia and two weeks in Norway before I managed to finish this post. Now, I’m actually back in Zambia! A bit surreal, but I’m not complaining!

But let’s start from when we left Cape Town.  We landed in the motherland around 13 o’clock. 15 o’clock we had the first meeting with the ladies. No time to loose! This was it…the moment we had been waiting for since April 2011. Seven wonderful ladies, Iris & myself ready kick off the pilot.

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The first week was characterized by organisational work, buying more equipment, making contracts, setting rules and (time) tables, delegate responsibilities, selecting representatives and making a workshop program.

Meet WayaWaya’s representatives, Angela and Susan!

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We had a meeting with one of the NGO’s we collaborated with and the manager got us in contact with a shoemaker. We went to visit him and it turned out that Norwegian Peace Corps workers trained him in in leatherwork and sewing in 1984. Small world! He knows how to handle an electrical sewing machine and has experience with making handbags as well.  We decided to engage him for a two-week period to help us with the training. Victor is such a humble teacher. He gets a long very well with the ladies and he knows his profession. We have also engaged Moyo, another leather specialist with great experience in making leather handbags. They compliment each other in the teaching and it’s great to see how the ladies are improving their skills.

Victor and Moyo!

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The WayaWaya team have had a very good start together, becoming a team and slowly getting to know each other. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and traditions, but at work we respect each other. After two weeks together, I saw it for myself. Working together as a group, solving problems as they come and supporting each other. Some of the ladies have been sowing for two years, while others only have had the introduction course. Obviously the level of quality differs amongst them. Still they are helping each other, explaining and are trying to improve the skills of the beginners.

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One of the first questions raised at the information meeting was how the ladies could stand out as WayaWaya women. Solidarity within the group is very important.  They are one team and support and cheer for each other in every way. The uniforms are a symbol of that. So we started the training with making WayaWaya uniforms.

“We want to show people that we are working for WayaWaya. It’s identification and marketing. We are proud of it.”

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WayaWaya team!

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After making the uniforms the “real” training started.  In the first week the ladies were cutting patterns on card box paper. Since the material is pretty though to work with, it was a good exercise. Cutting perfectly is necessary when they start cutting into leather.  We were lucky to borrow Victor’s electrical sewing machine, and continued with stitching straight lines, shapes and circles on cardboard boxes and regular paper. We are aiming for accuracy and perfect finishes, nothing in between. The electrical machine is quite fast compared to the machines they are used to so we have spent a lot of time getting familiar with the speed and practicing those straight lines! At this time we are practicing on denim fabric, old rice bags and fake leather. It’s been important to get used to different types of material as we are handling different types of leather. Here are some more pictures of the training:

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The new machines arrived!

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Moving inside! This will be our workshop for three months.

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Soon we are starting on the bags! We’ll keep you updated!

-Merete

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