Charity within a Charity

This blog is written by RIPPLE Africa volunteer, Nikki Luxford

Small community projects can be just as important as the larger scale ones but for different reasons. They may not directly benefit huge numbers of people but for those involved it offers an opportunity to work in a team, giving them focus and also allowing them to be proud of what they do. One such group is the Lowani Ladies Sewing Circle.

The women originally started as a health group with the late Collins (RIPPLE Africa’s Disabilities and Rehabilitation Project Coordinator) before progressing forward to making sanitary pad kits. Access to shop-bought sanitary pads is limited to millions of Malawian women living in rural areas, not only because of their location but because of cost too.

The group have been making the kits, which aim to be affordable to all girls and women, have now carried out market research to find out what their target audience think to the products and are busy organising talks at the secondary school and family planning clinics in order to reach many more women.

 sanitary pads Malawi
An example of the pads in the kits

From the sale of the kits the money is re-invested to buy more materials to make more kits and the small profit is used by these women to help the neediest within their villages – the women don’t earn a penny for themselves.

Creating ideas, creating opportunity

Within the group there are 23 women of varying ages and they were keen to have some new ideas and to start making other hand-made crafts to create a small business – and they’ve really excelled themselves. They were also fortunate to have help from one of RIPPLE Africa’s Trustees Gabrielle who assisted them on fine-tuning their sewing skills.

 Team work Malawi
Team work

 learning from Gabrielle
Some of the ladies learning from Gabrielle

So now the ladies are not only busy making sanitary pad kits but also a variety of items from purses, Kindle cases, cushion covers, aprons and the pièce de résistance (and my absolute favourite) are the African-material patchwork blankets.

They’re not just blankets but depending on the buyer can be a patchwork picnic blanket, a patchwork bed spread/sofa throw or an actual blanket to keep you warm on a winter’s evening (or day!).

Everything the ladies make is done by hand however they were recently donated a Singer treadle sewing machine from Brian and Janet, a couple who came to visit the project and were thoroughly impressed with the dedication and team work demonstrated by the women. The ladies will still continue to sew much of the items by hand but the sewing machine will come in extremely useful for the finishing of the blankets and other larger items.

patchwork picnic blanket
Busy making a patchwork picnic blanket

volunteers lending a hand
Working away – RIPPLE Africa volunteers/visitors often pop in and lend a hand

There are a number of new items which are currently being designed – plus we have an exciting opportunity coming up in a couple of weeks and there’ll be another post soon showcasing the different products which are available to buy so keep an eye out.

If you’d like to read more about life in rural Malawi, Nikki has posted a number of blogs on her website.

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