Aug 30, 2018
This spring, the Gay Lea Foundation announced a donation of $19,500 to the Canada Africa Community Health Alliance (CACHA) in support of the Tchukudu Women’s Training Centre (TWTC). Located in the eastern city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the TWTC is a place for women fleeing war in their villages to train in a new skill and begin a solo or co-operative business to support themselves and their families.
“The Democratic Republic of Congo is a hard place to live,” says Tchukudu Women’s Training Centre founder Cathy Cleary. “Political instability, extreme poverty and ongoing violence in the eastern region makes living in many areas a daily challenge. Yet, I have met many women filled with hope and motivation to make their lives and the lives of their children happy and healthy.”
The CACHA is a non-government organization that seeks to improve the health of rural communities through partnerships to facilitate programs and initiatives for disease prevention, treatment, care, support and education to the most vulnerable populations in Bénin, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. In 2016, the organization took on the Tchukudu Women’s Training Centre, a project that began in 2014 after past CACHA board member Cathy Cleary visited the Democratic Republic of Congo. There she met many women who had experienced violence, loss, grief and despair, yet who still had it in them to look out for each other and try their best to care for themselves and their children, most of whom are unable to attend school. The training centre was the idea of the people she met, people who weren’t looking for hand-outs, but hoping for a hand-up.
“The centre offers hope in this forgotten part of our world,” says Cathy. “The women here know there are people in the world who care about them, and who are willing to commit to supporting them to make their lives better. The people of Gay Lea Foundation bring hope to the women.”
The Tchukudu Women’s Training Centre consists of a small wooden building with two rooms. One room is for first-year training, where women share sewing machines and learn together. In the other, women are provided with their own sewing machine and learn individually. A small outdoor area was previously used for basket-weaving but is now used for tie-dye training.
With the support from the Gay Lea Foundation, women at the centre are learning tie-dying methods and selling their fabric to the centre’s sewing students and other seamstresses in the city of Goma. Two groups of 16 women have learned the tie-dyeing methods and received exit kits with supplies and materials to start their own businesses. The women then form co-operatives and work together and sell their creations.
“Our third group of trainees received their exit kits, with much thanks to Gay Lea Foundation, and are currently setting up their co-operative businesses to increase their incomes,” says Cathy. Since 2014, 48 women have graduated and have begun their own sewing co-operatives, she adds.
The centre currently has a group of nine women in their second year of training, and a new group waiting to start training.
“The Gay Lea Foundation is proud to support the work the Tchukudu Women’s Training Centre is doing to improve the lives of women in the DR Congo,” says Gay Lea Foundation Chair Rachel Caldara. “The centre’s graduates not only have the skills to build a better future for themselves, their families and communities; they have purpose and dignity.”
The centre is now working on a Sanitary Pad Development Project, where embroidery and sewing machines will be permanent and sanitary pads will be made and warehoused. The centre will use Gay Lea Foundation funds to purchase a generator and two embroidery machines once a home for the project is built.
“The Canada Africa Community Health Alliance and especially the Women of the Tchukudu Women’s Training Centre offer their heartfelt gratitude to the people that support the Gay Lea Foundation for their compassion and generosity,” says Cathy.
About the Canada Africa Community Health Alliance
The Canada Africa Community Health Alliance is a registered Canadian charity and non-government organization dedicated to improving the health of rural communities through partnerships to facilitate programs and initiatives for disease prevention, treatment, care, support and education to the most vulnerable in Bénin, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
About the Gay Lea Foundation
The Gay Lea Foundation is the official registered charity and collaborative forum for Gay Lea Foods and its members, directors and employees to support families and communities in need. Since receiving charitable status in 2014, the Foundation has provided more than $685,000 in funding support for education, poverty relief and community well-being projects in Canada and around the world. The primary source of funding for the Foundation is an annual $150,000 contribution from Gay Lea Foods, which is supplemented by personal contributions from across the Gay Lea Foods family. Funding applications are assessed twice a year by the Foundation’s Board of Directors, which is comprised of Gay Lea Foods Directors, delegates, dairy producer members and employees.
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