This week we began our leather training program. We have about 15 people coming for the training, all personally selected by Calvary Chapel based on the individual’s need and situation.
It’s taken over a year for us to get this training program rolling. After meeting the Williams family from northern Uganda, I fell back “in love” with leather, a holdover from my D&D/RenFest days and from my time in Morocco watching some of the finest leather crafters in the world. Although the local tannery(!) supplied leather, I was amazed that no local craftsman had taken the initiative to make anything decent out of leather. After talking the the HFC board we decided to invest in some leather crafting tools with the goal of learning to create items to sell at cons and to start a program to teach those in need a skill that could help them out and set them on a course for a better future.
Of course that meant I had to learn a bit about leather crafting. After months of watching videos online (at pathetic painfully slow Internet speeds) and reading lots of web pages and books (thanks to Tandy for all that!) I had finally figured a few things out. Then Jen took an interest and her creativity and artistic talent blew the lid off this thing until suddenly, we knew enough to teach others.
So with all that history out of the way, I’ve caught you up to this week and our training.
We are teaching various levels if skill this week to find out who has what strengths. Our goal is to provide jobs to anyone in the program facing dire need, regardless of skill, creativity or natural ability. In short, there’s something for everyone.
One of the the biggest products we’ll produce are journals, which are made with leather covers and have a feel of something old, that’s traveled the world. Theses require tearing, folding, punching and dying paper. This can be quite time-consuming, especially the dying and sun drying which even in the Ugandan sun can take two hours per batch, but this job in particular pays well and doesn’t require much strength or ability other than patience.. Especially when the wind kicks up and the pages turn into tiny kites. Our paper teams will work from their homes and we will supply them with all the tools they need. This allows them to work at their own pace and on their own schedule and lets them work other jobs if needed an also attend to their families.
Jen came in to teach a sketching and stylus course which definitely takes some artistic ability. As the group began their sketching it became obvious that only a select few would be able to assist with the more artistic pieces such as journal covers and bracelets.
I also taught saddle stitching, which is much harder than it looks. As we sat in the grass and the ladies followed along, i found that, again, only a small majority of the ladies had the hand strength to work with even the thinnest leather. However, as I helped refine their grip, I saw a lot of improvement and eventually everyone from the youngest to the oldest made near perfect stitching runs. Some were advanced enough that they made perfect runs at record pace. Our advanced students were starting to emerge.
As the ladies stitched, I took the men aside and we started working with metal for bracelets and dog tags. I chose the men because metal work takes lots of hand strength and the men were more interested anyway. After some time cutting and filing, the men proved that they had great skill and we found another job that could be done from home.
As the students advanced through various training exercises, we learned that we will likely have an advanced team that works out of our workshop (converted garage) where they will have access to more instruction and a wider variety of tools. These select few have raw ability and we’re excited to see how they will grow.
Our training continues until Friday when we begin testing and will make final selections for various teams.
The leather products you see in our etsy store (http://www.etsy.com/shop/hackersforcharity2) are still made by Jen and I since they are rather advanced but in the weeks toxins we will release products made in collaboration with our new students.
Thanks for supporting us and for making a real difference in the lives of our students. Without your donation and support we never would have been able to pull this off.