Started in June 2008, the Palala Clubs Apron Project blossomed out of one of the annual girls club craft projects: sewing aprons using traditional South African Fabrics. Palala Girls Club has sewn aprons for the last two years, and the Palala North Girls Club did it for the first time in 2008. In the past, Palala Clubs has been generously funded by VAST grants through the PEPFAR program. However, with the knowledge that this funding is short term, we felt it was of great importance to find a way to make the clubs self-sustaining. Using one of the pre-existing club crafts seemed the perfect start to designing an income generating project.
It has been such fun for Rachel and I to watch Maam Tema, Maam Ditsela, and Maam Khalo improve upon their sewing skills and to see them express it in each adult and youth apron, complete with a matching bag, they produce. I'm sure that when Rachel gave these ladies their first sewing lesson on an electronic machine, she had no idea how much they would love having the ability to create clothing, household goods, cards, etc. Each apron is being sold for R100/R150 with profits from the sales being given directly back to the leader who sewed the apron, and used to support Palala Club activities.
Towards the end of November, we held an apron workshop for the three above mentioned leaders to teach the Palala North Girls Club leaders how to perfect the art of apron making. Maam Tema, Maam Ditsela, and Rachel joined us in Seleka for an afternoon of talking about the project and working individually with the six Palala North Girls Club Leaders. I loved watching the women come together; seeing them teach and support one another was exciting--knowing that these women had taken hold of something, had pride in their work, and regarded it as their own. One of my goals for 2009 is to help the Seleka leaders improve their sewing skills so that if they choose, they too will be able to join the apron project.
As Brandon and Rachel have now completed their Peace Corps Service and left South Africa (more about that in an upcoming blog), Paul and I will be working to assist the leaders in Klip and Seleka with the apron project and club until we leave in September 2009. Our hope is to iron out a few gaps: finding a reliable fabric supplier that will transport fabric to northern Limpopo, looking to see if there is a larger market for aprons in the States, and possibly finding a retail outlet for sales in South Africa. We are thrilled that the aprons have sold so well up until this point--our sales just topped 300---and we are excited to see what is in store for the project in 2009. For more information, or to order an apron (shipping is available in South Africa or to the States) please see the Palala Clubs website at www.palalaclubs.com.