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Ford’s Global Caring Month, held annually in September, is the company’s signature event that sees Ford volunteers around the world tackling hundreds of projects to uplift and empower communities. The initiative is supported by Ford Motor Company Fund, Ford’s philanthropic arm, which provides grants to beneficiary non-profit organisations (NPOs) to improve peoples’ lives.
Since 2017 Ford has sponsored sewing courses hosted by Al-Fidaa Foundation, a registered NPO, which is located near Ford’s Struandale Engine Plant in Port Elizabeth. The organisation was formed in 2008 to assist impoverished communities in the Eastern Cape. Its three-fold strategy consists of soup kitchen feeding projects, skills development and education programmes, as well as many social welfare and poverty-alleviation projects – several of which Ford supports.
A total of 40 learners have benefitted from the Ford-sponsored Al-Fidaa Foundation training courses to date, which are fully accredited with the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing (FP&M) SETA.
“Umthungo Sewing Studio is a project of the Al-Fidaa Foundation, which provides an accredited FP&M SETA sewing course for the unemployed to gain a skill so that they may earn an income after completion,” explains Mohammed Matvad, Public Relations officer for Al-Fidaa Foundation.
“We rely on donations to cover our operating expenses to provide the skills training free of charge to the unemployed, and we are grateful that Ford has made it possible for 40 previously disadvantaged learners to gain the skill of sewing by sponsoring the training of four classes from 2017 to 2019,” Matvad says.
“The graduates from this programme have embraced this new knowledge and experience, and now run sewing businesses from their homes by offering garment manufacturing services, alterations, stitch and patchwork, bag production and even fashion design,” he states.
Shawn Govender, Plant manager of the Struandale Engine Plantsays: “It is fantastic to see the tangible difference that the annual Ford Global Caring Month has made to improve and uplift peoples’ lives. With many of the communities in Nelson Mandela Bay dealing with high levels of unemployment, and the majority of these learners being female, this project has made a significant and lasting contribution to empowering women to become financially independent, and we are proud to be supporting Al-Fidaa Foundation with its great work.”
For Bongiwe Lumko, who lives in Despatch – around 30km from Port Elizabeth – the 2017 sewing course provided by Al-Fidaa Foundation was a truly life-changing experience. As amother of two she previously didn’t have a job and had no formal income, which made it a struggle to make ends meet.
“I didn’t know anything about sewing before doing the course, but Al-Fidaa taught me everything I needed to gain new skills and experience,” Lumko says. “I was the top student in the class and Ford sponsored me with an industrial sewing machine and a laptop computer.
“This changed my life because I was then able to start my own business making garments for customers and earn my own money. During the COVID-19 lockdown I’ve been making face masks, and I also do bags, traditional wear, winter jackets and children’s clothes. I would really like to thank Ford Motor Company and Al-Fidaa Foundation for giving me this wonderful opportunity,” Lumko adds.
Brenda Sixolo, another recipient of the Ford-sponsored training, also graduated from the sewing course in 2017. She now runs her business, Breez Fashion Designing, from her home in Booysen Park about 5km from Lumko, with the two having become friends while doing the course.
“The Al-Fidaa programme teaches more than just sewing. You are taught how to use a computer, develop a business plan, and market your business,”Sixolo says, adding that most of her business comes from out of town, and is generated through social media, and her Facebook page in particular.
Inspired by vibrant and creative colour choices, she designs and manufactures traditional, formal, and children’s clothing, and also does alterations, shoe covers, accessories and beadwork. She is also doing her part to support others in her community by imparting some of her sewing expertise, and her new-found business savvy, to help them become entrepreneurs too.
“I would like to thank Ford for pledging to the cause and Al-Fidaa for providing the training,” Sixolo says. “Through this sponsorship I am now able to run my own business and provide for my family.”
Click here to view the video on Ford South Africa’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/oOIr4ygNw1s