TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A documentary film entitled “Reap What You Sew” about a tailoring school established in Malawi, Africa held its first screening in Tucson on Thursday, Dec. 27.
Founded by local radio show host and non-profit director, Dr. Deb Waterbury, the Reap What You Sew school held their second graduation this past summer. In the two years since the school began, 17 out of 19 graduates have started their own businesses and been able to lift their families out of poverty.
The documentary was filmed exclusively on location in Malawi and Mozambique this past summer, and follows the lives of several former graduates of the school as well as highlights the newest graduating class. Dr. Waterbury says the documentary is an accurate portrayal of the impoverishment in these countries.
“Malawi is one of the poorest nations in the world, and the women there are often destitute,” said Waterbury in a news release. “These women receive no education and are often widowed due to AIDS. There are no department stores in the country so you have to buy clothes from tailors, making this the perfect skill for women to learn and pass on to their children. One of our students from last semester opened up her own storefront in her village and we were able to interview her about the incredible transformation in her life.”
The students at the Reap What You Sew school attend a six-month program focused on tailoring. Upon graduation, they receive a sewing machine and supplies free of charge, as well as accounting and bookkeeping training. Classes are held five days a week at Agape Life International Church in Blantyre, Malawi. Students are required to pay 500 kwacha (about .70 cents per month) so they are personally invested, and they must maintain an 85 percent attendance record to stay in the program. Most of the school’s expenses— tuition, teacher salaries, sewing machines, fabric, and other necessities— are covered by tax-deductible donations from individuals and companies. Dr. Waterbury says that they have a long waiting list of women, and the need is great.
“We try to choose women who are economically in dire straits, and a large percentage of women in Malawi fall into that category. Our plan is to open branches of this school in other needy countries in Africa, and my ultimate goal is to offer additional training for culinary arts, aesthetics, and other necessary skills in addition to tailoring.”
Dr. Waterbury hopes the documentary will shed light on the plight of these women, and will encourage enough donations to fund several schools in the neediest parts of Africa.
“We are not simply throwing money at people,” says Waterbury. “We are purposefully training them with a necessary skill that they can pass along to their children. We are not giving them a hand-out, but a hand-up, and offering them the chance to change the financial status of their families well into the next generation.”