MSTC Destroyed by Fire – The Campaign to Rebuild Begins

On the 9th of July an accidental fire in an adjacent business unit spread and completely destroyed the Mwanza Sewing and Training Centre (MSTC) workshop in Tanzania.

Established in 2007 as a partnership between Tools For Solidarity (TFS) and the Small Industries Development Organisation (SIDO), the MSTC has played an essential role in providing support to the tailoring sector around Lake Victoria. Targeting women tailors in rural areas, people with disabilities and Vocational Training Colleges (VTC); in the last year alone 340 tailors were trained and 375 sewing machines were provided, enabling small business development and improving local income generation for participants in the programme. The MSTC has been a real lifeline for tailors and their families (as mentioned in the Belfast Telegraph).

We are all in shock! The fire left the MSTC with a completely ruined building and 395 sewing and knitting machines destroyed (watch this short movie, images below).

Additionally, the entire machines spare parts, treadles, tailoring material and accessories, workshop and office equipment, including paper records, bicycles and tools were lost. Luckily nobody was injured in the fire! Here is what Jane Madete, the manager of the MSTC, said about the fire:

“We are really sorry for the workshop, nobody thought of that situation, it was a normal day as any other day with dress design training going on in that week, we are really confused about what has happened.”

As discussed between all the parties involved, it is not in the interest of either TFS or SIDO to see the MSTC close its doors, particularly because of its success over the years and positive impact on the Tanzanian tailoring sector. According to Stephen Wood, the TFS spokesperson:

“The support that it provides [MSTC] to tailors and the experience that the staff has is of major strategic importance to the development of tailoring within Tanzania and the greater region of East Africa.”

Similarly, Damian Changa, the regional manager of SIDO stated:

“It is so useful to the society, especially of rural areas, and VTCs. Mr Jackson Malamula of MALDO burst into tears when he saw the burnt MSTC – the Centre was so useful to Magu, Busega and Bariadi; the districts where MALDO operates.”

Now its time to think positively, pull together and rebuild. It will require a collective effort to sustain the MSTC project for the years ahead, aiming to become even more effective and resilient.

The fire gives us a chance to reflect and to adjust our strategy, bringing the training for tailors and fundis (mechanics) to the forefront, keeping the provision of temporary accommodation for trainees, while still maintaining the supply of machines and other support services to the tailoring sector.

It is also vital for MSTC to secure new partnerships, ensure more resources and increase capacity. One new partner has already being established between MSTC and Disability Aid Abroad (DAA) to run a 3-year programme for people with disabilities (more information to come).

As we speak, the MSTC is completing the rehabilitation of the building, but the refurbishing of its interior will be costly and we urgently need to help. It is now crucial to purchase equipment for checking and refurbishing the remaining sewing machines and treadles rescued (work done locally by Athuman and Christina), reimburse the owners of the sewing machines lost and continue with the training programme as soon as possible.

TFS will expedite its next shipment due to the urgent nature of the present situation. The shipment will need to be sent within the next 2 months. TFS is urgently looking for donations to help replace the material losses of the MSTC and to develop its new project.

We take this opportunity to launch an appeal: if you have a sewing machine(s), treadles, tools, tailoring material and accessories, and office equipment that you do not want, we urge you to get in touch with us.

We are also accepting charitable donations. Funds will be used to re-equip the workshop.

We have been overwhelmed with the response from friends to the disaster and it is humbling to know that so many people value and appreciate what we are trying to do.
Thank you so much and we will overcome!

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