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The Team Behind the Tools: Sewing Machines

We want to take you behind the scenes in our Ipswich Refurbishment Centre and introduce you to our sewing machine team.

Tony (left) and Stephen (right) working on a Singer sewing machine

We get all kinds of sewing machines donated to us. Some of them are quite basic manual machines, and others are more complicated electric machines or very heavy treadle machines!

Sewing machines are by far our most popular tool - last year, we sent 2,791 of them to Africa. This is because tailoring is such a valuable skill in the countries that we send tools to.

Local tailors don’t just make clothes; they also do repairs. This is particularly useful in countries where people can’t afford to own many clothes.

Tailors can set up outside their houses and catch the attention of people walking by.

Stephen, who has been helping out in the sewing machine department since last year, says:

I enjoy using my mechanical skills to make a difference. I’m used to restoring broken-down old cars, so I got the hang of manual and treadle sewing machines quite quickly. The electric ones were a bit more difficult though!

It can get quite busy in this department, with up to nine people working together on some days. This is very helpful because it means that each person can focus on a certain type of machine.

Thankfully, there is plenty of bench space allowing our team to all work at the same time. Working closely together helps them to build the friendships and camaraderie that are such an important part of the volunteering experience.

David refurbishing a vintage sewing machine

The sewing machine team can refurbish up to 20 machines in a day, which we think is very impressive. It’s also important that this many are refurbished because we send hundreds of sewing machines in each container.

Tony is in charge of this department, and he makes sure that everyone is well-trained and has all the help that they need. He joined TWAM in 2007 after a career in engineering, and after being asked to start working on sewing machines by then-manager Graham, he taught himself to refurbish them.

It’s very inspiring to see the team hard at work, busy refurbishing the machines that meant so much to people in the UK and that will be given a second life in Africa instead of being thrown away.

We’re so grateful for everything that our volunteers do, they really make our work possible.


We'd love to tell you more about the impact that we're having. If you'd like to see even more stories of livelihood creation, sign up for our email list and we'll keep you updated.

Quick Links

We take a wide variety of tools. Click the button above for the full list of accepted tools, and to find your nearest local collector or drop-off point.

Our work is mostly done by volunteers, whether that's driving around collecting tools, refurbishing them, or helping out in the office. Have a look at our roles.

Support our work by covering the costs involved with putting together a tool kit, as a donation, or an alternative gift on behalf of a loved one.

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