Collaborating for Transformation

“Definitely something has changed in my life. I now look at things in a positive way and put God first in everything I do,” says a participant at a recent workshop organized by Africa Capacity. Integrating carpentry and restorative justice, the workshop took place at Destiny Church in East London, South Africa, between 14 September – 3 October, 2020.

Some 17 participants with ages ranging from 23-58 attended the carpentry portion of the workshop. About 64% of participants were ex-offenders who struggle to get formal employment due to a criminal record, low skills, high unemployment, and widespread poverty. Representing five low-income communities, including Duncan Village, Pefferville, Parkside, Mdanstane, and Nompumelelo, many of the participants engaged well in learning the upholstery process and were excited to see the finished products.

Conducted in collaboration with Hope Prison Ministry, most participants said they enjoyed learning how to manufacture wood products such as couches and ottomans; identify operations necessary to assemble component parts of couches; and perform hand and basic machine operations to assemble component parts of couches. Zolisa
Gwiji, an experienced upholsterer from Cape Town (with clients such as McDonalds and Red Bull), facilitated this two-week intensive training.

Similarly, the week of restorative justice was intensive spiritually and emotionally. Thankfully, participants could “offload deep-seated burdens” in a safe environment and in response to personal conviction. This session explored several refreshing topics such as truth; taking ownership for one’s crime; the ripple effect of crime; victim-offender-dialogue; forgiveness; reconciliation. Several facilitators from Hope Prison Ministry shared personal stories of transformation through embracing these
principles. Reflecting over their misdeeds, some participants cried and openly apologized to some victims of their crime on the last day of the workshop. Destiny, a local church that provided their premises free of charge for the workshop, is also providing part of their facility at a minimal cost for a new company formed by participants of the workshop.

Named Isibane Senkosi (Xhosa for “Light of the Lord”), the company is providing upholstery services to clients from East London, and is also a platform where participants continue to receive coaching in life skills and
business ethics.

Funded by donations from two friends of Africa Capacity, the workshop highlights the value of strategic collaboration in implementing community development within low-
income communities.