Carpenter runs free workshops for unemployed youths

A youthful carpenter is running a voluntary carpentry training project at his workshop in Tshabalala high density suburb in Bulawayo.

Fofo at his workshop – lack of finance to secure bigger premises is his biggest challenge.
Fofo at his workshop – lack of finance to secure bigger premises is his biggest challenge.

Wonder Fofo, 30, is a qualified carpenter and also runs a successful carpentry business in the suburb. He decided to assist local youngsters after realising that most of them spent most of their time roaming the streets doing nothing.

“As a youth who was unemployed for a long time before I started my business, my heart bleeds when I see youths roaming the streets. I have therefore introduced a voluntary youth carpentry training programme at my workshop. Yes, there are no jobs. But we should not continue mourning -we should do something about it,” said Fofo in an interview with The Zimbabwean.

Fofo works with various churches in the area to identify beneficiaries of the short carpentry courses. “Most of the youths I have trained were recommended and vetted by the churches I work with in this programme. Our priority is mostly youths from disadvantaged families,” said Fofo.

In order to balance his business and the training project he conducts the carpentry lessons during weekends. “I conduct the carpentry lessons every Saturday. I take five youths per session. After four months most of the youths would have acquired the basic skills that they can use to start their own small businesses. I do not charge anything for this service,” he explained.

Since the project started last year, Fofo has trained 15 youths. Four of them have already been employed by a local furniture making company, while two are currently in the process of establishing their own furniture ventures.

in 2011 Fofo lost his job at Clay Products, where he was employed as a general hand worker. He enrolled for a carpentry training course in Makokoba and after completing this course he started his own business in 2012.

He makes high quality sofas, wardrobes, kitchen cabinets and a variety of other items. His major clients are individuals, schools, churches and small shops. A double door wardrobe at his shop costs $200, while the same item costs between $250 and $500 at other retail outlets.

He said the biggest handicap to expanding his business and training programme was the shortage of finance. “It is very difficult for youths like myself to access loans from the banks. I have even tried to apply for a loan from the youth fund but nothing has been forthcoming,” he said. He also needs capital to acquire machinery and premises.

Fofo said big furniture selling shops in the city had on numerous occasions expressed their desire to award him lucrative furniture making contracts, but he is unable to accept these offers because he does not have sufficient working space. He currently runs his business at the factory shells in the Tshabalala owned by the city council.

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