CYC-Online 31 AUGUST 2001
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street children project

Moulding a life with nimble fingers

Sumeera Dawood

Tables are strewn with coils and coils of wire and with trays full of turquoise, aquamarine, ruby red, lime, apple green and shimmering yellow beads.

Clearly, Street Wires has arrived. Street Wires is a wire-art business that also serves to uplift the community by training street children in the craft of making objects d'art from wire. It offers its services to the Homestead, an “intake" house in Strand Street, Cape Town.

The street children sit diligently at their tables, zooming in over their work, discarding their dusty, tough street kid facade, and reminding all onlookers that they are but children.

Bopping from tray to tray – some on one leg only – the children go in search of their perfect set of coloured beads. During this workshop, they’re to produce a flower; looping the wire for a petal, enclosing a head in the centre and a dash of colour for the stem.

Anton Ressel, Street Wires' marketing manager whose idea it was to empower street children with wire-making skills, looks affectionately on as they dash about for their beads. “Generally, they love beads. They use lots of beads to make necklaces, bracelets and that sort of thing. When we started this, they were totally disinterested in it. There’s this notion that they've got to be strong. Now, when we arrive, they light up, they get a bit excited," he comments.

"They ask if they can sell it and we always let them keep what they make. We want to show them that if you use your hands and make something, then you might be able to sell it."

One person, who has shown an aptitude for just that, is 14-year-old Thabo Cukula. He has been at the Homestead for two months and has attended four of these workshops.

The workshops offer only the very basics in the wire-making craft, yet Thabo confidently wants to venture into something new. “ I want to be able to do the cars, not only the flowers," he comments. “But every time (that Street Wires are here) I enjoy it!" Thabo says, tugging on the necklace he made during the last workshop. He sees a future for himself in the artistic field: “I can paint, draw and make things with my hands. I love it! I want to be good like the artists in America. “If I can do that, then I can go from here. Eventually, I want a very good job."

Whether or not wire art will land Thabo his “very good job", it has provided something far more valuable: the confidence and willingness to be able to say, “If I use my hands, I can mould my world!" The project is self-funded with contributions from Hyperactive, who designed their website, and Eveready who have supplied batteries for the radios that Streetwires makes.

The International Child and Youth Care Network

Registered Public Benefit Organisation in the Republic of South Africa (PBO 930015296)
Incorporated as a Not-for-Profit in Canada: Corporation Number 1284643-8

P.O. Box 23199, Claremont 7735, Cape Town, South Africa | P.O. Box 21464, MacDonald Drive, St. John's, NL A1A 5G6, Canada

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