Do you have your own Little Travellers or have you sent them to family and friends as a gift from “home”? Over the past 15 years, these charming creations have been changing lives
In 2002, Thabo Mbeki was president of South Africa, The Queen Mother died, the song Hero by Enrique Iglesias seemed stuck on repeat, and The Little Traveller came into being.
The Little Traveller initiative was born from a need to ease the burden of HIV/AIDS in our community, and was spearheaded by Paula Thomson with beaders Jabu Mthembu, Tholakele Nene, Bester Simelane and the late Thandiwe Chamane at Woza Moya Craft Shop at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust. They knew then that economic empowerment was the single most important factor in fighting the epidemic, as it gave people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS the luxury of looking to the future and, in doing so, motivated them to take ownership of their disease.
These beautiful beaded pin dolls are made by women in the Valley of 1 000 Hills, who are affected by HIV/AIDS, and the dolls have now travelled to every corner of the world. They have inspired a fashion line, starred in a movie, and been part of a collaboration with international fashion designer Issey Miyake.
Busi Nzama started making Little Travellers in 2006 and specialises in the superhero travellers, including Superman, Superwoman and the Hulk. “With the money I make, I’ve been able to extend my house and furnish it, I have put my children through school and we have enough food to eat. I am so grateful for the support I have been given by people buying my crafts.”
Today, Woza Moya sells an average of 400 000 Little Travellers each year in over 70 designs, including Rasta, Sangoma, Afrogirl, Ballerina, Superman, Batman and Rugby player – each as unique as the person who made it.
“Our biggest achievement is that we have economically empowered over 100 women, who at one point did not see a future,” says Paula Thomson, craft co-ordinator at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust. “Now, 15 years later, they are thriving and making plans for the next 15 years.”
To celebrate this, Woza Moya hosted a photo exhibition, showing how these beaders have changed over the years.
Woza Moya is the economic empowerment project of the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust. Started over 16 years ago with five beaders making AIDS ribbons at a local church, the programme now supports more than 350 crafters, most of whom have between five and 10 dependants.
Every week, these men and women sell their crafts (from beadwork to wirework, woodwork and even crochet) to the store. Their creativity and ingenuity is inspiring, with each product a unique creation, imbued with the hopes and dreams of its creator. By selling their crafts the crafters become self-empowered and self-employed.
“Woza Moya is dedicated to our crafters and to our customers,” Paula continues. “We encourage crafters to come up with new, creative ideas and, as much as possible, for our crafters to set their own prices. The sale of their crafts is the only source of income for close to 95% of our 350 crafters. Every item bought from us has already helped to employ, empower and give hope to a family in need.”
Woza Embocraft, Shop 237, Old Main Road, Botha’s Hill
Woza Moya and Friends @Woza_Moya