COVID has affected many of us in more ways than we can imagine due to all the preventative measures that were put into place to protect everyone. This was noticeable in the rural communities surrounding us in the greater Kruger Park area. Unfortunately, tourism was the one industry to be hit the hardest, and as a result, many of our locals lost their jobs. They were badly affected, as one person’s income could be the only money coming in to support the rest of the family group. It is our purpose and vision to build the community back up to pre-pandemic levels and more, with your help. One of our partner workshops lies in the heart of Rooiboklaagte, Acornhoek. A generous donation, which enabled the weavers to have a space that was specifically built for their craft, resulted in the acquisition of a property and building called New Dawn Centre. It forms a daily hub of activity for the rural communities, from Katlego creche and Seeds of Light art centre operating on the one side of the property, to the Mapusha Weaving Co-Operative, which operates in the main workshop area. It is a safe space that offers the locals opportunities to work, collaborate, learn, create, meet and grow. However, to be utilised correctly for its intended purpose, the space requires a fresh coat of paint to “lift” it and give it a much-needed boost of energy. The workshop also direly needs electricity as thieves stole all the electricity cables a while ago. They haven’t been in a financial position to get it redone, so they cannot sew the items they used to produce. Not only that, but with no electricity, they cannot see a thing inside their storeroom as it is pitch dark. Also, they are badly wanting to convert this storeroom into a strong room so that they can keep all their valuable equipment secure. This is the most urgent issue! Because of unemployment, there is theft, and at the moment, rather than risk leaving all their equipment at the workshop, the ladies end up carrying everything back and forth. As some ladies from the rural communities are walking for an hour from their homes to the workshop, this is not practical for them. Sadly, these ladies haven’t earned an income since COVID hit our country, so we rely fully on donations for the work to be completed as a part of the community development. Once the weaving studio can operate fully again and they have converted the storeroom, they will start with a new group of trainee weavers and will give them the opportunity to gain skills in both weaving and sewing. Thereafter, they can decide where their passion lies more and move into that craft as their focus. The trainees that will start on this program are currently unemployed and unable to provide for their families. Across the road, we have The Peanut House. It also badly needs repairs and maintenance, and therefore it has not been operational for a couple of years. In order to enable the artists to use it again, we are chomping at the bit to see Simbi of Simbi’s Pottery Studio move back in. He operated out of there before COVID hit us. Currently, the potter’s studio needs quite a lot of work. After we have replaced the missing windows, done the roof repairs, and we have applied a good coat of paint, we are hoping to see the hive of activity it was once known for, return to the studio space. We want to see it filled again with a group of innovative and hard-working people who bring life to our building and enhance our communities. Simbi will start with a new group of trainee potters from the rural communities as soon as they complete all the repairs to the Peanut House, and the building is habitable again. These trainee potters are people who are currently unemployed and unable to provide for their families. Once they have completed their training with Simbi, they will continue in the potter’s studio, creating items to sell that will bring an income in for them and their families. By teaching the local unemployed people from the surrounding rural communities, we are empowering them. They are learning a valuable skill and trade which will be with them for the rest of their lives. Not only that, but they can put what they have been taught into practice within a relatively short period. This leaves them with a feeling of magnificent accomplishment and independence in being able to be fully responsible for their wellbeing and lives. If you can donate, even just a small amount, towards any of these projects, it will make such a tremendous difference to not only the current artist’s lives but also to the lives of those in the rural communities of Rooiboklaagte. These opportunities for employment and growth will uplift many local people there. Follow the link to donate and thank you so much for your support towards community development!