Unemployed man thrives through creativity

When Stephen Sigogo completed his ‘O’ levels studies at Luveve high school in Bulawayo in 2000, he was almost certain that his father’s employer would employ him as a general hand.

Ester Jubane - Showing some of her products.
Ester Jubane – Showing some of her products.

In previous years, Stephen’s elder brothers had all been guaranteed employment at their father’s workplace soon after school. The father was a foreman at the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), then one of many thriving companies in the city that was most sought after by young job seekers.

Unfortunately Stephen’s dreams were shattered because instead of the company recruiting it was now retrenching. The dawn of a new era had come and times had remarkably changed.

Nowhere to go

Faced with this sad reality and nowhere to go for employment as most companies were the a similar situation, Sigogo approached the Bulawayo Projects Centre (BPC), a Christian organization that provides training and practical support to unemployed men and women who aspire to engage in economic activities and generate income for their families.

“A pastor from my church referred me to BPC. I enrolled at the Thorngrove workshop as a carpenter in 2005 after successful applying.

BPC seconded me to a qualified carpenter who taught me how to make all sorts of furniture,” said Sigogo, in a recent interview.

A decent life

Since then Sigogo has been making a living through making an array of furniture products such as beds, tables, wardrobes, cupboards and coffins which he sells to various furniture retail outlets in the city.

“I have never been formally employed in my lifetime. I survive through making and selling furniture. I am living a decent life than that of my brothers who are employed by NRZ,” said Sigogo who operates his business at his home in Nkulumane.

Beauty Macheka, the business advisor at the centre, said since its inception in 1993, more than 3,000 people have benefitted from the centre’s services with 1,400 people now engaged in various economic activities.

“BPC provides training and practical support to unemployed people who wish to engage in economic activities. Our programmes also promote biblical entrepreneurship,” said Macheka.

Small businesses

Apart from training unemployed women and men, the organization also offers youth business training that empowers unemployed school leavers to start their own small businesses.

“Our aim is to create opportunities for the development of the whole person, both materially and spiritually, recognizing that each person has received God- given talents,” said Macheka.

Before being accepted, applicants’ commitment to entrepreneurship is assessed through interviews.

“Members pay an annual fee as well as a small fee for the various training courses on offer. Members can also utilize our workshop facilities to start and run businesses for a limited period of time,” she explained.

One of the beneficiaries, Ester Jubane, described the BPC training programmes as intensive and useful.

“BPC training programmes have made wonders in my life. I was trained in bead making and leather craft. Out of the skills I acquired, I am able to sustain my family,” said Jubane.

Jubane makes leather bags and sandals which she sells locally and abroad. She also makes beautiful beads.

A pair of sandals costs between $9 and $25 depending on the quality of the leather.

BPC also runs a market gardening irrigation training programme for rural farmers. It facilitates contract farming for the farmers as well as promoting savings and credit associations.

BPC was established in 1963 by a group of churches in the city as a social services ministry.

The centre is head quartered in Thorngrove but runs satellite centres in the high density suburbs of Nketa, Njube and Cowdray Park.

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