The unemployment rate in South Africa is extremely high. According to official sources it increased to 26.4% in the first quarter of 2015 (Statistics South Africa). The lack of skills and the system of grants have created a dependency culture that has only deepened the gap between those who have and those who don’t.
In May 2015, with little experience and using personal funds, I started a toy making workshop at a local Recreation Centre in Johannesburg hoping to create a space where (unemployed) women from different backgrounds could meet and learn a practical skill that could allow them to generate an extra income.
During the workshop the participants have been learning to make toys with a unique technique, namely, amigurumi. Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures. This practical art form has become highly popular especially amongst young people. This implies that the women are learning a valuable skill. Thus, making use of patterns which I have gathered and modified, and equipment and materials which I supply, we meet once a week to learn this craft.
In addition, the toys that are made during the learning period will be donated to an institution working with children with special needs.
After six weeks running the workshop we have learned that there is a lot of interest from participants and from people who want to help by buying the toys, but there are aspects of our initial conceptualisation of the project that need improving. For example:
• Regular attendance to the workshop was a problem for many of the participants who live in areas far from the Recreation Centre where we are based. We would like to provide a small stipend to cover transport fees and in this way ensure their participation.
• People learn at different paces. We need to meet at least twice a week to give enough time to the participants to get familiar with the technique.
• We have not been able to donate toys yet because we had to first sell some of them to be able to continue running our workshop.
• We have been able to promote and sell a few toys to personal acquaintances and through our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/tmw2015). But we need to build a professional website where we can promote our project and offer our creations nationally and internationally.
In the long term we do not want to rely on donations to run our project. We wish to become fully self-sustaining, however, we need some help to get started and be able to reach more people with our project. We want to start a new group of approximately 10 people, but to do so we need your help. We are hoping to raise at least €1200 to build a website and create a logo for our creations; to pay for materials for the initial training period so that the toys can be donated; and to give a stipend for transport fees to those attending.