Real change is hard, and change in South Africa is no exception. Crime, poverty, corruption, litter, poaching, mindsets . . . The need for change is everywhere but perhaps one of the main reasons it isn’t happening fast enough is because we don’t always believe we can help. Uzwelo and Expand a Sign decided to change that, and focused on what they could do instead of what they couldn’t. They asked themselves what our beautiful country could look like if we worked together, building opportunities for those around us and their communities. They spoke about how lives could change, how families could be empowered and how communities could be uplifted and brought out of poverty through skills development, entrepreneurship and education. They looked at their own lives, businesses and communities and slowly, an idea dawned . . .
What if they used their waste fabric that normally goes into landfills to make functional, stylish and affordable bags of all shapes and sizes? And what if they trained people to make them, in their communities, as an entrepreneurial opportunity? And what if some of those profits went into supporting an environmental non-profit already doing good work? It almost seemed too good to be true, but they had to try. The desire and need for change, however daunting, was too big.
Through the support, expertise and insight of those around them who wanted to be a part of making SA a better place, their vision started to take shape. They prototyped bag designs, engaged non-profits and communities, explored skills development programs and encountered local heroes of positive change. Stories of hope and opportunity to make a real difference became a daily experience.
They are now armed for change with a range of unique and truly South African bags (literally, each one is different) that are fashionable, durable and cater for every aspect of South African life from fashion to shopping, travel to work, sport and school. They have a team of 3 trained ladies from iBhungezi/Philangethemba Trust (Molweni-Valley of 1000 hills), 3 ladies at the LIV Village, and 2 ladies from iThembalethu (Cato Manor), and aim to have several more sewing teams up and running within the next year. Each of these ladies are now producing bags and earning a living that puts food on the table for their families, funds education and provides dignity and upliftment for their communities on a long-term basis.zwelo has also partnered with the Bateleurs, an NPO that provides SA with an aerial perspective of the environment. They are involved in multiple, diverse missions of sustainable environmental and development policies and programs. Uzwelo is proud to donate a portion of its proceeds from sales to this amazing organization and their cause.
Even though the Uzwelo journey is just beginning, the greatest experience we’ve had so far is the realisation that we all have an opportunity to contribute and make a difference in this beautiful country, and all it takes is to care a little bit more today than you did yesterday. The only real thing standing in our way is our attitude.
So . . . If our bags can have an impact, is there something in your bag that can make a difference too?
For further information visit Uzwelo Bags or call Kirsty Fonzari on (031) 207 2327
Read more about the founder of Uzwelo Bags, DON BAILEY