Zimbabwe: A Stitch in Time
25 February 2016

Members of the first dressmaking VST group called themselves “God Given Sewing Club”. Today the group of 12, 9 women and 3 men, supply Saint Michaels Secondary School with Uniforms. (Gushwell F. Brooks/Jesuit Refugee Service)
"We give thanks to God that is why our group is named “God Given”, because this business is our gift from God”.

Tongogara, 25 February 2016 - The Vocational Skills Training (VST) Programme, established and run by Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Zimbabwe, aims to give refugees and asylum seekers living in Tongogara Refugee Camp an opportunity to gain an education and bask in the dignity of being able to earn an income through their own labour. One group at Tongogara Refugee Camp is perfect testament to this idea.

The smiles on the faces of the tailors in the dressmaking group tells its story, a story of contentment and appreciation. This is the first group that benefited from the Julia Taft Refugee Fund and received start up kits to start their own small business. They received industrial sewing machines, overlocking machines, tape measures, scissors, patterns as well as materials and threads. Upon graduation, the group received start-up kits that would enable them to start their own micro enterprises within the camp.

Rather than going off on their own and pursuing opportunities individually, upon completing their training in dressmaking and tailoring, the group of dressmaking graduates came together, put their resources together, drafted a constitution, came up with a group name and so “God Given Sewing Club” was established in December 2013.

The fact that the group consolidated their resources, skills and labour is what enabled them to be the preferred supplier and manufacturer of uniforms for Saint Michaels Secondary School. Working together as a group means that this co-operative of individuals have the capacity to produce the requisite quality and quantity of uniforms the school needs every year.

The club is responsible for making the trousers, shirts and ties for boys as well as skirts, shirts and ties for girls. They have also made blazers for the school prefects, tracksuits for the school athletics team as well as sunhats for the students in the school.

The group is made up of Made up of 12 members, 9 women and 3 men, this group has been working together perfectly despite the fact that they are all of different nationalities. This group’s ability to set differences of nationality, language and culture aside has enabled them to pool together achieve what no individual would have been able to achieve alone. Rather than focus their efforts on individualized, small, basic-survival ventures, this group has been able to establish a major enterprise within the limited opportunity an encampment environment provides.

As Jacques Nasibu, secretary of the group says, “It takes a kind heart to remember the needs of refugees and JRS has that kind heart. They heard us when we said we wanted to start our own businesses, they gave us knowledge and on top of that they have given us an opportunity to use that knowledge. We give thanks to God that is why our group is named “God Given”, because this business is our gift from God”.

Press Contact Information
Gushwell F. Brooks
+27 11 618 3404