“During my childhood I played with a doll, and I made clothes made from plastic bags for it; I also used old rags. And you won’t believe this, I used a stick to knit those clothes together.”
Gloria Malope is a seamstress who has been connected with Ten Thousand Homes since 2008. Her creative spirit has been a part of her since her childhood. However, as she grew up, “that love for making clothes ended up fading away, and my dreams as I was at school was to become a pilot or a television presenter.”
Through word of mouth from a previous job as a security guard, Gloria began working for two different families at TTH. She noticed one woman, Anneke, was always creating and sewing useful items such as tote bags.
“That for me was amazing to see. One day she asked me if I was interested in what she was doing. She asked me if I knew how to knit or use a sewing machine, and I said no. After that, I started attending classes with her from 12:00pm to 3:30pm every Friday after my work. She taught me the basics of using a machine, and I ended up developing that love again. We started making and selling bags together. I think she was too kind, and ended up deciding that we will share the profit that we make.”
When Anneke’s family moved away, she left behind her machine and some materials for Gloria to keep. This time and effort taken to bless and to empower her has made an immeasurable impact. For a long time Gloria has wanted to pass on these skills to other people.
Over the past few years, she has been selling some of her products in the Village Store at TTH. She also runs her own sewing business from her home. We have seen this dream and passion to teach grow in Gloria: “I still use the same machine today. Since I got a Good Samaritan to help me, I also want to do the same in this sewing project. It is all about being passionate. Sometimes it’s difficult, but if you have that passion you won’t give up. I think this is my calling because if I think of something, immediately I go to my machine and start doing what I was thinking about.”
So we decided to do something about it. Slowly we began buying supplies for a sewing classroom. Today we have machines and all the materials necessary to teach five people at a time. Gloria has taken the time to learn about care and use of our machines. Together we carefully selected fabrics and supplies and have made a lesson plan for a twelve-class course. We are currently accepting entries for our first sewing school!
“I’m too excited for this. I have been wanting to do this for a while, but the problem I came across was I didn’t have equipment and space. I only use my table in my kitchen, and I have one machine, so this project is a blessing for me. The reason why I want to do this is because of the high unemployment rate in our country. It’s so difficult to find a job, so if people can use their hands to create something to sell, I don’t think there will be poverty.”
Gloria knows the power of working with her hands and not allowing circumstances to hold her back. “I raised my children with the same machine Anneke gave me…I’m willing to do everything it takes to provide for my children’s needs with that sewing machine; I will use my hands and my mind.”
She has technically been unemployed since 2013. Since that time, not only has she been surviving from her sewing business, but her family has been living life well. There are the typical day-to-day struggles, but Gloria has made sure to give her children as many learning experiences as possible. Her home is filled with her sewing supplies, many project prototypes, interactive toys, and a general sense of joy and belonging. There are pictures on the wall of her kids swimming, laughing, and being free. There is a story of Gloria going on a school trip with her daughter and getting to hold a giant snake to the horror and awe of her classmates. There are dreams and plans of going to university to get a degree. There are scraps of paper and crayons with many doodles and drawings.
“If people have the skills to do something, they need to start using it. Hopefully this project will be productive,” says Gloria. Knowing her and how far she’s come, we have no doubt that these classes will change lives. When people come together for creative projects such as this, a strong spiritual community is created and nurtured. We can’t wait to see what the next chapter of this will entail.
interview by Mzwandile Ndlovu & story by Phoebe Giffey-Brohaugh
Listen to an audio of the interview with Gloria…
Photography by Rebekah Ness