A Lifeline for the Local Economy
07 Sep 2009
For budding self-employed carpenters and builders in Malawi, the Mikolongwe vocational school is the place to go.
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For budding self-employed carpenters and builders in Malawi, the Mikolongwe vocational school is the place to go. Set up in 1997, young people can acquire the technical and basic management skills needed to start up in business. For the community and the local economy, the school is a lifeline.
However, the centre struggles to afford the necessary equipment for its students. This was recently overcome when the school teamed up with ‘Tools for Self Reliance’ — a small UK based charity supplying reclaimed tools to artisans in developing countries. The partnership has worked successfully to provide the region’s youth with better opportunities to earn a living.
This achievement has been repeated across Africa, from sewing co-operatives in Ghana, to blacksmiths in Tanzania. It has all been made possible by the hard work and dedication of a small number of staff and hundreds of volunteers in the UK. From the Orkneys to Jersey, there are groups helping to collect, mend and clean good quality equipment — spades and shovels for building, metalworking tools and bicycle repair kits, all of which are sent out on request.
One such group, based in Clun, South Shropshire, is celebrating its 17th year. Founder Dave Thomlinson and a dozen volunteers meet up for two refurbishing sessions a week. “We usually put six to eight kits together over 12 months, containing many hundreds of tools,” Dave explains. “We also run stalls at local fairs, selling gardening tools to raise funds for the national ‘Tools for Self Reliance’, usually making over ¬£1,000 year.” The group are fortunate to have rent-free premises on a local farm. “It means that we are independent and have never claimed for any grant aid,” says Dave.
With every shipment, the organisation moves a step closer to putting the rural poor of Africa on the path to prosperity and self-reliance.
Contact: Tools for Self Reliance,
Netley Marsh, Southampton,
Hampshire, SO40 7GY
Tel: +44 (0)23 8086 9697
Members of the All Styles Carpentry group, in Zambia, who
are one of the many beneficiaries. Photo: courtesy of Tools for Self Reliance
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