''We can buy sewing machines in the market, but they break in a month. TWAM machines are durable and last for many years.''
These are the words Patrick, the founder of Bakatawamu Information and Development Empowerment (BIDE) in Uganda. We hear this same message time and time again when we visit groups and see the shiny new machines, sitting there unused and broken.
People often ask us why we don't just send these projects money so that they can buy machines themselves, instead of putting in all the work that we do to get machines refurbished and shipped to Africa. The answer is that our machines offer a long-term solution.
Many of the newer machines that these projects can afford are cheaply manufactured and not durable at all. They're easy to break and not designed to be easily repairable, so the only option is to just abandon them once they break.
As a charity committed to sustainability and longevity, we want to prevent this throw-away attitude, and that is where our machines come in.
Patrick set up BIDE after he retired in 2017 and sought to use his new-found free time to improve other people's lives. He saw the huge challenges being faced by people in his community and decided to turn to TWAM to help him meet these challenges.
''I did a feasibility study in the rural area and found that when a child drops out of school, they have no options. Our community has many drop-outs, and they get involved in crime, drugs, etc., but if you get to them and give them options, you can change this.''
TWAM's work relies on people like Patrick starting up projects to help their local communities and taking the initiative to approach TWAM for assistance. Ultimately, we need and help each other.
''I thought: if I train school dropouts in tailoring, then give them a sewing machine and find them a place in the market, I will give them a chance. I can follow them up to make sure they are using their skill.''
Patrick has recruited many volunteers to help him with the training courses. They also work with the parents of the trainees to make sure they support their children and do not take all their income for themselves, but allow them to keep some to grow their business.
This is particularly important, as all the hard work can be undone if money is not reinvested in the business by purchasing materials, upgrading to a workshop, etc.
Patrick currently has six locations teaching tailoring, but he has plans to bring them all together into one large centre. He usually has around 65 students training at a time. The students help to fund the training by finding contracts to make school uniforms, and the top students of each year are employed by Patrick to help generate income for the project.
Patrick is currently developing a programme to teach people to maintain and repair sewing machines. Thomas (above) trained in Kenya and can not only repair machines, but can also convert electric and manual machines in treadle machines. These are foot-operated and are especially useful as they allow tailors to use both hands.
Thomas says: ''I am the only person in the area who can repair machines. As well as working with Patrick, local schools and community projects employ me to repair their machines. Working with Patrick, I am now training 35 other people to repair machines. This will be a big help to the community.''
This helps to ensure the longevity of the machines that we send. Many of them are quite old, which actually means that they are very well built and very repairable. Teaching people how to maintain and repair them enhances the sustainability of the work, and means that the trainees won't find themselves out of work if their machine breaks!
Could you gift a sewing machine to a group just like Patrick's, helping a trainee to start their own tailoring business and leave poverty in the past for good?
Just £25 could cover the costs of collecting, refurbishing, and packing a toolkit, ready to be shipped to Africa.