Evangeline graduates took to the stage to celebrate the successful completion of their six-month Life Skills course with singing and dancing on Saturday 1 December.A total of 24 students completed the course. The course is an ongoing partnership between Evangeline Ministries and Masicorp and takes place twice a year. During this time, students are taught basic sewing techniques, basic English and computer skills, at no charge. This free course is extremely popular and has a one-year waiting list. At the end of the course, on successful completion and based on regular attendance, the graduates receive a certificate as well as a sewing machine, which they can continue practising on, hopefully using the skills they have learnt to either find employment or open their own sewing business.Started by Dr Wendy Ryan in 2006, the programme is open to women who by education and income are defined as disadvantaged. “The overwhelming majority of our students are jobless or have minimal employment. For this reason, the programme is free of charge to the students. I started this programme to give skills to women who were HIV positive and needed new sources of income for themselves and their families. Since then, the programme has expanded to include all economically, socially and educationally disadvantaged women and a few men who live in Masiphumelele and more recently Ocean View and from other townships.“Initially the programme taught basic sewing skills but has since expanded to basic computer and English skills. From its inception, we awarded a new sewing machine to students who successfully complete the programme. It runs two six-month semesters with a capacity of 24 students each for a capacity of 48 students annually,” says Ryan.The graduates showed off their stylish, mostly traditional garments and were greeted to loud cheers and applause from the audience, which was made up of proud family members and friends. Almost all the students (mostly women) had never used a sewing machine or computer before, and many had a limited understanding of English. Ryan adds she is grateful to God for the journey of cooperation and partnerships, primarily with Masicorp and Living Hope. Megan Pringle, fundraiser at Masicorp, says the aim of this course is not only to empower these individuals through skills training, but to provide empowerment through personal growth, giving each of them the confidence in themselves to create a better future for themselves and their families. “After successful completion of the course, the graduates have the opportunity to continue learning more about sewing by visiting The Sewing Cafe at the Chasmay Road campus. Here they will learn how to operate an industrial sewing machine and could also be given the opportunity to sew items on commission, assisting The Sewing Cafe to service their clients.“Masicorp is proud to be continue our valued partnership with the Evangeline Life Skills programme. Ryan and her team show such commitment and support to their students, and we are pleased to see several graduates from our neighbours in Ocean View take part this year. Ocean View is a community struggling with similar issues to Masi, such as crime, unemployment and poverty. We hope that collaborations such as these will continue to grow, providing opportunities and hope for members from both communities.”She lauded Masicorp and other funders. V To register for the course, visit the Chasmay Road campus or call 021 785 1923 for more information.