In the little rural village of Van Reenen on the border of KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State, Dudu Hlongwane and her group of creative women help to care for a thousand families through their beaded crafts.
With their hands, and through their craft, these women change lives – one beaded angel (ingelozi) at a time. The Beads of Hope’s angel project is a story of restoration and inspiration.
Dudu has nine dependents and is able to make five angels a day while also taking care of everyone. The income earned from these angels makes a substantial difference to the economic wellbeing of her family. “Ngiyathanda, ngiyajabula futhi,” she says, adding that she really likes being able to work at home and keep an eye on the kids.
In Frankfurt, Germany, a little boy and his mother walk into a gift shop. It is Christmas time and the boy wants a gift for his much loved grandmother. He picks up a beaded angel from Africa. The light bounces off hundreds of glass beads. He is enthralled. This angel symbolises his love for his grandmother. He buys it.
And so this boy, honouring his grandmother, enabled a woman in Van Reenen, South Africa – through her own hands – to nurture and care for her family.
As the mala-beads are strung together, one is reminded that we are all connected. We have the capacity to nurture, partner and touch lives in meaningful ways. The Beads of Hope initiative proves that sustainable income can be derived through the development of entrepreneurial skills, restoring feelings of self-worth and passion, changing the destiny of rural communities in South Africa.
Beads of Hope started in 2003 when founder Jane McKenzie and her partner Kim Struben shared a vision to create opportunities for impoverished families in Van Reenen. Kim understood how impoverished the community in and around Van Reenen was and how few employment opportunities there were. Jane realised that there was an opportunity to make a real difference in marginalised communities.
Soon after, Beads of Hope with the tag line – Be an Angel, Buy an Angel, Feed an Angel – sent out word into the community asking who would like to receive beading training. They were overwhelmed at the response and humbled by the enthusiasm, realising the enormity of the need in Van Reenen. Jane recalls one woman crying when she arrived at her home “Mama, I have been sick and praying. Here you come and bring us work”.
Over the past years more than 260 women (and a few men) have been trained to make angels. In 2010, R70000 flowed into the village shared by 15 women and their families in a space of five weeks.
“This makes the difference between surviving on one basic meal a day and affording little extras such as meat, or shoes, or school fees,” explains Jane. “Bleak futures change to light, love and laughter.”
Jane’s goal is to sell one million angels a year. She believes this project can grow exponentially if we unite, work together and support each other. “If one person buys ten angels and tells another to buy ten angels, we will soon create a powerful ripple effect which is so essential to stem the tide of poverty, disillusion and the concomitant health and social woes which can cripple entire communities.”
“The more we open our hearts, the more we encourage and uplift each other – and give hope,” ends Jane.
Beads of Hope forms part of N3TC’s Corporate Social Investment Touching Lives Programme. The Touching Lives Programme spans four provinces and supports more than 70 community-based projects annually, directly impacting on 69000 lives in any given year. It is N3TC’s aim to leave a lasting legacy along the N3 Route, which will continue to benefit and sustain the numerous communities this route traverses.