WHEN the Friends of Chatty Library first started their group in 1994, it was merely to assist the staff at one of the oldest libraries in Nelson Mandela Bay’s northern areas.
Two decades later this lively bunch of elderly women set out to acquire skills that would empower residents in Bloemendal where youth delinquency, unemployment and poverty are prevalent.
In a little room behind the bookshelves at the Chatty Library, the Friends, as they are known, gathered weekly to equip themselves with skills in arts, crafts and handwork.
These skills were soon passed on to many others as a means to sustain themselves.
Although each library has a constitution that elaborates on the role of friends of a library, ranging from helping out when staff members are absent and arranging book shelves, the Chatty bunch felt they had more to offer the Bloemendal community.
“The group still does their library tasks, but we felt there was room for making a difference in the broader community,” chairwoman Genevieve Hendricks said.
“When I joined them in 2010, my goal was to empower them with skills that will not only be therapeutic, but sustainable as well.”
The women are known to make the best beaded jewellery and accessories in the community. Their fabric painted bedding and curtains are also popular.
“The best part is so many other women, young and old, have joined them. Each one who leaves here, leaves with skills that either generate an income or that they pass onto other women in the area. It really is true that if you empower a woman, you are actually empowering a nation,” Hendricks said.
For Rosett Booth being part of the Friends is not only a way to generate money to spend in her humble home. For her the best part is selling their work and ploughing back into the library for educational and stimulating programmes for children.
“I enjoy doing things with my hands, but I enjoy making a difference a lot more. Our endeavours help many children in Bloemendal who, like us, come to the library to escape from the realities of life in the northern areas.
“Some days they too learn to do things with their hands, other days they are part of educational programmes,” she said.
“Either way it feels good to be part of a dynamic group like ours.”
– Alvené du Plessis
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