Supporting Tools for Self Reliance – Practical Help for Practical People

The Haberdashery Hunt!

The Haberdashery Hunt

by Angela. Dorcas and I set off at 8am on an October morning to find the TFSR headquarters in Southampton. We were packed to the gunnels and even managed to squeeze in another box once we had occupied the car seats. Here is the list of what we had in the car:
  • 13 sewing machines
  • 2 large shopping bags of sewing patterns
  • 1000 bamboo knitting needles
  • 1000 bamboo loop knitting needles
  • 4 black bags of wool
  • 3 black bags of material
  • 1 shopping bag of buttons
  • 1 shopping bag of sewing threads / embroidery threads
  • 1 bag of zips
  • I bag of press studs
  • 1 small bag of crochet hooks
  • I mixed bag of ribbon / lace / tape and bias binding
We still have 3 more machines, a suitcase of haberdashery, and a black bag of wool to forward to headquarters in the future. Our drive had us pass through some lovely countryside through the Cotswolds. It was a great morning sky and it became bluer and bluer as we drove our way down the M3 and M27 to Netley Marsh. We had used our own navigation skills until we got to Southampton when we relied on the sat nav which somehow took us to a recycling centre, but not the one we were looking for! With an enquiry we rectified the situation and arrived to be greeted by two volunteers at TFSR who willingly unloaded our donations from every inch of the car! We then had a lovely tour of all the workshops and met some of the volunteers who explained their roles and how they had become involved in the charity’s work. We were escorted by a European volunteer from Russia called Alfiia who enthused about the workshops and her role. She said she particularly loved the packing for shipment as this was the end of the process in the UK. A shipment was being prepared for Sierra Leone that would go out in November. We were shown the sorting area where all donations came in. We then encountered the Sewing workshop where every machine is checked using a rigorous check sheet to ensure that every machine is in good working order. We met two volunteers in the woodwork shop packing the machines and jig cutting a shape in the top of the wooden packing box to allow a sewing machine to fit on top and provide a good base when in use in dressmaking out in Africa. We met Jenny who gave us a details of  how the haberdashery was sorted and  packed into boxes, such as sweets boxes and wine boxes, with a small quantity of each haberdashery item as a start-up kit for a woman beginning dress making. We learnt that 87% of those trained in Africa using the donated tool kits retain their skills and develop jobs, thereby becoming self-reliant. In comparison, the retention rate after training in UK is 55%, so supporting TFSR is an excellent use of money and resources. We were shown a small shed at the front of the site that has been converted into a shop. It is used to sell haberdashery, refurbished sewing machines and tools to generate funds for shipment costs. It was beautifully laid out and the prices of the items for sale were almost the same as those we ask for  in Coventry! A small group of special needs friends operate the shop and provide superb support for the charity as well as benefitting from great  camaraderie and experience. Items of Haberdashery that cannot be sent out to Africa are sold on eBay or at a stall in Southampton called ‘Robins Nest Emporium‘ to boost funds for training. We left Headquarters well acquainted with its operations, and were very impressed by the commitment and passion of the volunteers.  We felt that this was a worthwhile and valuable charity that benefits individuals in the UK and in Africa. We returned home enthused by all we saw and thanked each other for the camaraderie and conversation which we shared on the journey. We look forward to continuing our volunteering for the Coventrty Group, and will seek others who can  support the collection of Haberdashery, which gives women in these African countries the opportunity to earn a living, be independent and believe in their own self-worth.
10th February 2022

A Message of Appreciation

Over the past five years, the Coventry and Warwickshire Group has raised over £24K, which has been sent to Tools for Self Reliance to help fund training courses in Africa. More than half of this was raised over the past two years, in spite of Covid restraints. The group has also sent large quantities of refurbished tools, to be used both for training purposes, and to equip trainees to work independently when qualified. Ben Riley, who is the charity’s Volunteer Co-ordinator, emailed us recently saying: “An increase on each year’s fundraising (including the COVID years) is an amazing achievement. These efforts go in line with what myself and other staff here regularly say about the Coventry group, and how you are an excellent example of our volunteer groups – in terms of your approach to the tools we need, sales and your recruitment of new members. Please thank everyone for me for all the hard work”. On our part, we would like to thank the people of Coventry and Warwickshire for their generosity and support over the recent difficult times.