Rita Machin tells her Co- Op story
Whilst there I met the Calabash staff and greatly respected their efforts to promote a better life for people in the townships.
In 2009, back in Manchester, I was elected to be a member of the Manchester area committee for the Co-operative.
You will probably know the Co-operative because of its retail, insurance and banking. In fact, many people can still remember their old ‘divi’ number.
I was a volunteer in 2008 at the Isaac Booi School in Port Elizabeth.
So, why tell you about these two personal events in my life?
Well, I was able to link the Co-operative with Calabash. The Co-operative donates millions of pounds to charitable organisations, the majority of which are in the U.K. But it also has a budget for overseas projects. Our committee were looking for a small co-operative that might need some financial assistance as we had some money in our budget for international projects. I contacted people and places and Calabash and asked if they knew of any local group, run on co-operative lines that might benefit from some financial help. And to my delight I learnt about Latita, a group of 15 women from the townships who are making hand-made soap. Each woman has 5 dependents. The Calabash Trust is funding a project manager, Carla Collins, for one year to help the women become a business co-operative.
So far, the women had some orders for their soap, but to progress they needed more training in marketing and business methodology. They also wanted to design new gift packaging for the soccer world cup market. After many e-mails between Carla and myself I was able to put in a submission for funding. It was approved and the Latita Soap Makers were awarded £1,200; £400 for new packaging and printing and £8oo for training.
One of the soap makers has already written and said,
“As the group the donation gives us strength and more dedication to our job. We promise that we will do more towards self upliftment by producing high quality hand made soaps.”
We have had the first monthly report and already the group has decided to register as a co-operative so they will eventually be totally independent. They only have one major customer, the Summerstrand Hotel, who order up to 1500 bars per month but the challenge is to increase their order book. Some samples of the soap are being sent over with a returning volunteer so we are all looking forward to seeing the product.
If any future volunteers want to purchase some soap do ask Carla at Calabash for details.
Whatever the outcome, the women will have benefited from training in all aspects of business which will help them in the future.
Of course, we all want this to be a successful business so the soap makers can have economic independence and a bright and prosperous future for them and their families.