Below is an excerpt from Nettie Graulichâs Annual Report on the MCV Sewing Project.
At the Blantyre bus station we wait until the minibus is filled with passengersÂ to take us on the 4 hour trip to Malawi Childrenâs Village (MCV). The bus stationÂ is like a walking shopping mall, vendors coming around selling all kindsÂ of items like pens, hard boiled eggs, blankets, sunglasses, and drinks. I loveÂ the scene. I am looking for a newspaper; since I have no radio orÂ TV, I have no idea what is going on in the world. The paper is onlyÂ a few pages long and half of it is sports. When I passed the paperÂ on to Ayami, he asked me how I got it. I said, âI just bought it.â ItÂ was Friday and it was last Mondayâs paper â well it was all news toÂ me. OK, I am in Malawi and nothing is a surprise.
Nettie and Ayami â the leaders of the MCV Sewing Project
To get from my house to MCV I have an old Land Rover to use.Â The horn does not work, the seat belts are just laying across forÂ make believe, the mirror keeps vibrating out of place, the left turnÂ signal does not work â I am a real road hazard, but it gets me there.
The project has steady work all the time. When I arrive they haveÂ just finished a large order of patchwork bedcovers and place matsÂ for Sandra, owner of The Makokola Resort, our biggest customer. Â Meanwhile Ayami (the manager), with his best workers, is finishing an orderÂ of uniforms for the employees of a large private school. Complicated patterns,
lots of piping and details. Another job well done. They are nowÂ working on school uniforms for the different schools we supply for SeptemberÂ classes.
I am very pleased with the quality of the work. The new trainees who startedÂ last year are doing excellent work. Our standards are high; we have assessments every threeÂ months. The training is free, and then as they have enough experience to take part in productionÂ they start getting a daily stipend. The wages are based on experience. We discussed theÂ importance of saving, but leaving them on their own, that did not work. Now we have a savingsÂ plan for all. Each decides how much to put away every 2 weeks and we keep it for them in theÂ bank.
The setup in the program is really working well now. WeÂ have a core group of our best trainees, who are now onÂ regular payroll. They have been with us for two or three years;Â they are the best workers and help with the training. TheyÂ also are provided with a treadle sewing machine at theirÂ home, so they can do âfreelanceâ work. Their exampleÂ of work ethic and excellence is what has broughtÂ the whole workshop to a better standard. Ayami can totallyÂ trust his workers to carry on when he has to go out onÂ sales calls. This year we bought Ayami a motorbike,Â which has made his job much easier.
Last year we promised James and Rajabu a house, which they now deserve. They haveÂ been busy making bricks. We hired a carpenter to make the framing forÂ doors and windows and they started building. James burned his bricks, soÂ he will have a more permanent house. James is assistantÂ manager and has turned out to be the teacher that the newÂ trainees prefer, so that will be his job. James (left) is on theÂ permanent payroll and will stay indefinitely. He comes fromÂ very far on the bicycle, but is there every morning on time atÂ 7am. We got him a good mountain bike to make the commuteÂ easier. James is the second born in a family of 7 kids, no father.
We asked how we can help him with anything and heÂ said, âI am afraid we donât have enough maize until the nextÂ harvestâ. At the New Year we give all the kids a bonus, a bagÂ of maize for their families. We already have bought the maize at the currentÂ lower prices and will have extra to help out during what they call in Malawi âthe hunger season.â
Issa and Hassam came as young 16 year olds, but we knew immediately they were born to beÂ tailors. At the time, Ayami said that it was nice to get good students while so young, so we wouldÂ have them for a longer time. They are now 20 and joining their friends who have gone to SouthÂ Africa. We know they will do very well, but we will miss them a lot.
Read the rest of Nettieâs Report here.