A Tailor in Tanzania

Aid & development, Success stories article written on the 23 Feb 2017

oxfam tailor tanzania

Once, a long time ago, Buchumi was a primary school teacher. But when war broke out, the personal danger became so great he was forced to flee his home. Buchumi found safety in Tanzania. He didn’t know it at the time but he would live at the refugee camp for eleven years (from 1999 – 2010). This is where he met his wife, a fellow refugee, and they became parents 6 times over.

Instability in the region has meant Buchumi and his family are refugees for a second time. They arrived at the Nyarugusu Camp in 2016 where the opportunity to retrain as a tailor presented itself.

Buchumi Tailor Tanzania

Buchimi, photographed at work. Photo: Amy Christian/Oxfam

Oxfam has a strong presence at the Nyarugusu and Nduta refugee camps. Apart from providing water and sanitation, Oxfam helps refugees improve their quality of life with practical skills training.

Buchumi joined tailoring lessons, taking to sewing like a duck to water. He has established a small tailoring business in the camp that’s showing steady growth. Not only does Buchumi alter and create garments but he gets to utilise his teaching expertise training adults in the tailoring trade.

“I ask Oxfam if it would be possible to bring in more machines, as I have the background in teaching I could teach more students how to tailor.”

Buchumi Tailor Tanzania

Buchumi’s students learning the tailoring trade. Photo: Amy Christian/Oxfam

Many of the challenges faced by the tailoring team are rooted in the makeshift environment of the camp where structures are made from tents, rather than bricks and mortar.

Buchumi elaborates on the difficulties:  “We also lack security to watch over our premises. The building is open so sometimes we have to take some machines home with us and leave the other being watched over by security guards; but their salaries becomes a challenge to us as it comes out of our profit. A semi- permanent premises is lockable would be very beneficial to us. “

The tailoring business became very busy approaching Easter but they don’t have the infrastructure in place to cope with demand. “We can work until 10pm at night but this is difficult, as we do not have lights. If we could get help to get solar panels and appropriate lighting we could, extend our hours and we would be more productive,” said Buchumi.

Buchumi Tailor Tanzania

The tailors use old-fashioned equipment. Photo: Amy Christian/Oxfam

Buchumi shared his concern around adequate shelter and warmth, a worry that must be shared across the Nyagurusu camp. “We would also like to request mattresses and sleeping accessories as when we work late we get very tired and then when we go home and sleep badly we end up getting ill.”

Buchumi Tailor Tanzania

A tailor in Tanzania, colleague to Buchumi. Photo: Amy Christian/Oxfam

Buchumi’s entrepreneurial spirit is helping his family survive another long haul in a Tanzanian refugee camp.

While the people living at Nyagurusu Refugee Camp are out of immediate danger, they have long years of poverty ahead which they’re facing with bravery and ingenuity.

Oxfam is on the ground helping them establish small businesses which provide the community with essential services while also improving livelihoods.

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