Uplifting the community one stitch at a time

2016-09-22 06:00
The Eersterivier Embroidery Project (EPO) situated in Kareedouw in the heart of the beautiful Route 62, turned around the lives of more than 110 women who had had little or no income before. With some of their products are Aletta van Wyk, Ria Jantjies, Ronel Coetzee (Head of Marketing and sales), Enna Gouws, Leoni de Lange (Head of Seamstress) and Maggy de Vos.                    Photo: MONIQUE BASSON

The Eersterivier Embroidery Project (EPO) situated in Kareedouw in the heart of the beautiful Route 62, turned around the lives of more than 110 women who had had little or no income before. With some of their products are Aletta van Wyk, Ria Jantjies, Ronel Coetzee (Head of Marketing and sales), Enna Gouws, Leoni de Lange (Head of Seamstress) and Maggy de Vos. Photo: MONIQUE BASSON

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ARMED with cloth, thread and needles they create works of art unique to their own stories and those of their community and culture - one stitch at a time.

The Eersterivier Embroidery Project (EPO) situated in Kareedouw in the heart of the beautiful Route 62, turned around the lives of more than 110 women who had little or no income before.

The story of the EPO, a registered BEE and non-profit organisation that is heavily dependent on funding, goes back almost two decades. What started as a small project in 1997 to provide an income for a few farm workers’ wives, changed the lives of countless local women. They employ 110 embroiderers, three seamstresses, one cutter and one designer.

At the head of the project are Ronel Coetzee (Head of Marketing and Sales) and Leoni de Lange who was a sewing teacher for 17 years.

According to Coetzee, a few local ladies in the Eersterivier area recognised the need for job creation among the less fortunate in the local community.

“The primary incentive of the project is to create jobs and opportunities for mainly rural women to make a living by being creative with their own traditional skills and background.

“The women who are involved in this project have been empowered to recognise their own talents and creativity and the ability that they have as individuals to play a part in making positive differences in their communities.”

According to Coetzee, their sales have increased by nearly 350% since 2012.

Looking at their work, it is not hard to understand why they have grown to such an extent. The time that goes into creating each piece and the attention to detail are remarkable. The images that they create are beautifully vibrant and colourful.

How the project works: The embroiderers receive cotton cloth, which is mainly black, with the design pre-drawn onto it, together with a range of cotton threads. “They can then use their creative talents to embroider with the colour schemes of their choice. After completing the work at their homes, it is sent to a central pick-up point. The women are paid per embroidered square produced. The fact that their names are part of the work is a source of great pride,” says Coetzee.

They illustrate designs of country scenes: birds, sheep, people, flowers, chickens, the big 5 and African scenes.

These embroidered pieces are then made into items such as bags, cushion covers, table runners, place mats, handbags, aprons, bags, tablecloths, book covers and toiletry bags - ready for sale under the label Tsitsikamma Eersterivier Embroidery.

According to Coetzee, their place mats, aprons and mitts are some of their top sellers.

They furthermore stitch sandbags for the local farmers, make the goodie bags for the Otter African Trail Run, and do repairwork.

They design and produce products on order, whether it is a bulk purchase or a single item.

You will find their brightly decorated squares appearing on products at a number of the shops in the Tsitsikamma area, as well as in Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Knysna, Albertinia, Sanparks and Grahamstown.

For more information, contact Coetzee at 082 404 1445.

  • The EPO also started vegetable gardens, a nursery school, sewinging classes, and health care courses.

They furthermore offer CAMI programme training at their two training centres in Kareedouw and at Gustav Reichel Primary School at Eersterivier Kruis. Some 120 children benefited from this training.

The embroidery project is the only income generating project.

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