By Rev. Copeland Nkhata, Director

The Hope Tailoring School (HTS) focused on economic empowerment of young women who live in the community that supports over 100 orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) through HopeHomes of the Mzuzu United Methodist Church,  is a joint venture of WorldHope Corps and the Mzuzu United Methodist Church, funded by a sustainability grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief UMCOR) and support from Communities of Shalom. 

Shalom intern Katrina Walk withAgnes Nyirenda and child

The Hope Tailoring School in Mzuzu, Malawi, saw its first class of 10 young women graduate from the program in May 2010, and a second class begin the same month.  Both classes are well on their way to economic sustainability as the tailoring skills they gained will enable them to be more productive citizens of Malawi and better able to care for OVC in their community.

The current second class of students, like the first, is made up of people who have always been on the peripherals of society; they come to this class to gain skills that will help them become financially secure economic players, breaking the cycle of poverty so common among the marginalized.  The major purpose of the school is to empower women, regardless of their current status in the world – we accept students from the immediate community regardless of if they are illiterate, under-educated or financially handicapped.

It is our hope that the skills they gain at Hope Tailoring School (HTS) will enable them to participate in the market place. All of the students are coming through this program aspire to find means and ways of generating income to sustain their families, but the HTS program dreams that they will do even more with their new skills; we hope they will change not only Malawi, but “save the world, one woman at a time.”

During the devotional time constructed into each day of learning, students learned about the good works of Dorcas (also called Tabitha in the Bible) who made garments and gave them to the poor, Dorcas’s garments were her alms to the poor. The devotional lessons were geared toward encouraging the women to imitate Dorcas’s example, thereby receiving the same blessings given to her (Acts 9:36). The students were particularly encouraged to look at the wellbeing of the orphans and vulnerable children in their midst who could benefit from their services. James 1:26 was also an inspiration to the women – providing a Biblical basis for Christian charity to those in need.

The women consider this program a big window of opportunity through which they can acquire skills to fulfill their dreams. In the course of the training we achieved a number of things, but the accomplishments deserve special recognition. The training has enhanced the women’s social relations, increased their spiritual growth, and also gave them the skills. Now they are ready to go out into the world and start their business ventures.

The Hope Tailoring School graduation in May was a milestone to the work of UMC in Mzuzu.  It brought people from the entire city to the University hall. This ceremony was particularly unique in that we did not just use the Mzuzu University facilities, but we also had Professor Lusayo Mwabumba as the guest of honor, to speak encouraging words to the graduates. The professor shared with the audience the new branches of the dream of the Hope Tailoring School, such as the Knitting School and a Culinary School. These two new branches would give incoming students an array of skills from which to choose and hopefully utilize in the complex marketplace.

The class was very gleeful and excited about beginning this new chapter in their lives. They entered the hall singing and dancing. They even planed a fashion show, where they displayed their creative fashions, and fine new skills. The Class Captain gave a speech disclosing the teams’ gratitude for the training opportunity with a special focus on their vision to become economic players. It was a short but electric presentation.

As a gift in good faith that these promising students will be world changers, the graduates were given seed-money from the UMC head office. It is expected that this money will help them start their business off on the right foot. Each lady received 7,500 Kwacha.

The following members of the Hope Tailoring charter class of 2010 were presented certificates  of completion for nine months of vocational training:

Agnes Nyirenda

Towera Nkunika

Chimwemwe Nyondo

Lyness Singa

Phalles Singini

Violet Banda

Juliata Munthali

Linda Mzumara

Hannah Makala

Stella Ndhlovu

During her address as class captain, Agnes Nyirenda made sure to express how this course of vocational study has given the women the power to generate income for their families and for the church. The audience erupted with praise, making joyful noise and sharing feelings of success and hopefulness. Violet Banda, was recognized for her aptitude and skills as one of the best students of the first class with a special reward. Mrs. Nyirenda was rewarded for her leadership abilities with a new suit. Apart from these special awards, every student received a certificate, the aforementioned jump-start package, and a special notebook for business planning and record keeping. 

Almost all of them have already started to go into some business. Mrs. Nyirenda received orders just after the graduation to make dresses and skirts. Another student, Hannah Makala received four orders just after graduation because some audience members were impressed with her graduation suit. 

Phalles Singini made three dresses for children on the 14th of June 2010 and two of them were sold within 2 hours and the third sold on the very next day. Mrs. Linda Mzumara, another promising student, is currently making caftans for sale at a hawker’s shop.

Overall, the Hope Tailoring School is proud of the first class of graduates and hopes for even brighter and higher achievements for the next class. It is our prayer that the seeds sown in these special women will reap a fine harvest for their families, for their country, and for the world.

The second class already has started to learn the skills of a tailor and 12 new women are enrolled in the 9-month course of study.  Drew Theological School has sent us a Shalom summer intern—Miss Kartina Walk—who was with us for 10 weeks this the summer to mentor the second class and help develop the program as part of the Communities of Shalom initiative.   We are grateful to Dr. Michael Christensen for creating this joint venture and partnership between the United Methodist Church in Malawi, WorldHope Corps, UMCOR and Communities of “Shalom.