A place of hope

Unilever (Supplied)

Unilever (Supplied)

The Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust (HACT), based just outside Durban, strives to eliminate HIV-related stigma, new HIV infections and Aids-related deaths in several poverty-torn communities in the Valley of a Thousand Hills region, one of the global epicentres of the HIV pandemic.

HACT has two income-generating projects. This first is an on-site plant nursery called Izingadi Zethemba (Gardens of Hope), and the second is an on-site craft store, Woza Moya (meaning come wind or spirit).

Here community members learn to become economically self sufficient through the production and sale of crafts – beaded items, ceramics, wirework, crochet work, fabric painting and sewing in their own environment.

The craft store provides an income to about 300 crafters and has been so successful that it became completely self sustainable in 2006.

The income from the stores enables Woza Moya to create employment for people from the local communities.

Beautiful craft from waste

“We have a saying, all of us at Hillcrest AIDS Centre,” says 41-year-old Francis Ngaeja. “It’s not the end of the world; we just need to be aware of our status and act responsibly.”

HACT craft co-ordinator Paula Jane Thomson met Ngaeja last year. He had been making craftware since school, selling on Durban’s beachfront and involving himself in various projects, such as making toys and chairs from cardboard and newspapers.

Thomson loved his work. Soon, orders came in from Nampak and Unilever, and a craft-from-waste project was started, with Ngaeja running the centre’s recycling department. What began as part-time work had blossomed.

“In the last year I have developed 25 new products, just from talking to people and working with the environment around me,” says Ngaeja. “I enjoy working with the other crafters of Woza Moya and sharing ideas – I get inspired when I talk to people about my work.”

All the Woza Moya products are made from industrial waste destined for landfills. “Plus, the community is bringing in their wine and beer bottles, and we are turning them into lights and glasses.

"We feel this has great potential, as shebeens and taverns could essentially be taught to recycle their own waste,” he says.

For this talented and industrious man, who previously battled to get work and to sell his wares, life has never been better. “Now I have a normal life. I have time off, time with my family, and I have a salary.

Woza Moya is something in my life that I can’t even explain – it means so much. It is a strong project and it is still growing. This year we had a lot of sales and spent a lot of money on supporting people.”

Contact Paula Jane Thomson on 031 765 5866 or [email protected] or visit www.hillaids.org.za

This article forms part of a supplement paid for by Unilever. Contents and photographs were supplied and signed off by Unilever.