These beads are made by women working from the Vhutshilo Mountain School in the Nzhelele Valley in South Africa’s Limpopo province, to supplement their own, and the school’s income. It’s a small school for small children (2, 3 and 4 years olds), in an area where money is scarce. Its headmistress, Sue-Anne Cook, is equal parts determination and compassion, and something else that’s hard to pin down.
The children who attend this school are some of the happiest kids you’ll ever encounter. Fed, stimulated, taught and loved here, they learn songs and play games with fine teachers who work here because it matters, not because Sue Anne can pay them well.
In fact, a community of people have gathered around the school, doing what they can to ensure the children’s continued health and happiness, as well as their own.
This is where the beads come in. Working with Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge (http://www.madiathavha.com) and the school, women and young people from the community can learn to sew and make glass beads from recycled glass (bottles, jam pots, broken glass from windows). The lodge then helps them find a market for their crafts by buying the beads back from them to make necklaces to sell in the lodge’s shop. The school also sell the beads and necklaces to their volunteers and visitors. Madi a Thavha also recently trained 4 young women associated with the school in sewing skills. When the new building at the school is ready, they will have their own sewing workshop.
Sue-Anne was recently featured in the Mail & Guardian Book of South African Women. You can read more about her and her school here: http://bow2013.mg.co.za/profiles/page/30/.
– Dianne Tipping-Woods