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Sewing Update 2015

Taking a break for the camera at the MCV Sewing Project

My work in Malawi is an adventure every day and I never tire of it. The program started in 2002 is ongoing and has become a model for vocational training in the developing world. So here is a bit of our story this year. Following is a note I received from Ayami, the 33 year old manager of our Sewing Project. As he always says, he was a poor village boy when he was chosen to join our program as a sewing teacher. I share this because it shows what an extraordinary person runs this program with me.

Hi Mum,

Mum, remember I was signed for the project on 3rd May 2005. Then I thought it wise to have some gift for the boys and girls that are with us right now. I told them that I did that in order for them to know that I have been with the project for ten years and what they can become at a certain place like ours. I went deeply with them into two points which are: being honest and working hard. Each and every time I enter in our work shop I ask myself why I am there not waiting for my boss to come and tell me what to do. I said that because sometimes there are some problems that when I go out of my work shop they slow down their work. But that is not James, James is always serious. It’s so difficult to promote a person who doesn’t show he is serious. In the parcels I put a bag of sugar, washing soap, bathing soap, lotion and 10 sweets that represents my 10 years with the project.

That was my good news, but in the same week on 7th May something happened that made me cry. I met one of our young boys, Mdala whom we let go last year due to his poor performance, looking desperate. I met him in Mangochi with cement all over his body. He is loading bags of cement in the big trucks to get money. Mum I cried looking that he is too young and his life is in hazard by doing that heavy work without protective clothing and no shoes. He was looking nice while he was with us, but now his future has been eradicated.

Mum even when I am writing this story tears are flowing from my eyes. I asked him “Are you ready to come back to MCV Sewing Project?’” Said “Yes am doing this because I don’t have anything to do in my village to support my family” I took a picture of him on the same spot, I showed the boys the picture and told them how their friend is doing and they agreed to call him back. Am expecting him to start tomorrow. He will again get a sewing machine to work at home as well.I don’t know if this will be good decision. Am doing that because our aim is to try to make my fellow brothers and sisters lives better, and plan for their bright future. Boys and girls are waiting to see you next month. And now Mdala is with us.


Working on patchwork quilts, made from the colorful Malawi zitenje, the sewing room is one sea of color when I arrive in June. These quilts have been ordered by Sandra our regular customer from the Makokola Retreat.

Sewing project workers and trainees at work while Ayami, (standing) supervises.

They are heavy and big and it is not an easy task to keep all the layers straight under the sewing machine. Ayami says that it was a challenge but our experienced sewers have figured out how to do it. We also have a big order for girls dresses, many sizes and styles. I start immediately on all the pattern work. We go to the local market and buy lots of different zitenje, the local colorful cotton prints, which come in two and four yard pieces. With James, who is now the full time sewing instructor, we make the initial samples, so he knows the best construction method for each style. Meanwhile, an order of 85 men’s trousers is being made. We have a large stock of our craft items, cosmetic cases, tablet covers, aprons etc. but after we have some visitors and a friend from America who will take a large suitcase of our items to sell, we have to replenish the stock. We are busy with layout, cutting and sewing all the time.

Read Nettie’s full PDF report here.