Working together on the Shipment

Filling a container is a special moment for all the volunteers, not only because of the hard work involved. It’s during these days that you get to see the work of a whole year. All the different activities carried on by the volunteers from building the boxes to refurbishing the sewing machines come together in a 20 foot container.shipment october 2013

On October the 24th 2013, TFS sent its 8th container to the Mwanza Sewing and Training Centre in Tanzania. This was the latest of nine containers – one went to Uganda – to be sent out to our partners.

The container left Belfast with 370 sewing machines, including knitting machines and a leather working machine.

Unlike the previous ones this shipment has been decided and planned in a very short time. At the beginning of July TFS has been hit by the news that a fire burn down the MSTC workshop in Tanzania. Most of the stock of sewing machines and all the workshop equipment were lost in one night. After the shock TFS decided to supply MSTC with another container of sewing machines and equipment to fit out the workshop that in the meanwhile has been rebuilt. This will enable the centre to continue to provide sewing machines and deliver the training that has already been scheduled.

In four month the volunteers working in TFS workshops in Belfast, Downpatrick and Camphill Community in Mourne Grange prepared and organised the items needed for the shipment.

The container was filled in Belfast during four days of hard work under pouring rain. It is expected to arrive in Mwanza by the end of December.

Once again none of this would have been possible without the work of all the volunteers who put all their energy and effort in getting everything ready on time.

MSTC has been operating for 6 years with the support of TFS. Acknowledging the value of MSTC work in supporting tailors and artisans in the lake districts of Tanzania, TFS is now looking to renovate the partnership with the centre.

With MSTC and another project hopefully starting next year where will container n° 10 be sent to?

Click here to see the pictures of the shipment

MSTC – ‘The Phoenix rises from the ashes’

Six months after the accidental fire that destroyed the facilities of Mwanza Sewing and Training Centre (MSTC) we are glad to say that the centre has been rebuilt and the activities are now running normally. In fact MSTC is reborn even stronger and more motivated to face new challenges.

As you must remember, in this disaster 395 sewing machines, hand tools, treadles, office material, bicycles and separe parts for the sewing machines were all lost. Nevertheless the MSTC team ‘have done an amazing work in the last few months to resurrect the project’ — said Stephen Wood. According to the last report submitted by the project manager Jane Madete, between October and November 42 sewing machines were refurbished and 53 were delivered to the tailors. In addition 54 people were trained in the following areas:

  • Embroidery design

  • Cloth design

  • Entrepreneurship

  • Operation and maintenance

The training is essential for the tailors because they can improve their techniques and acquire new skills and competencies. On top of that they can learn how to manage their own business and thus generate a greater income.

In conclusion it has been a excellent job. Many thanks to the MSTC team for keeping this project alive!

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!