DUMELA, HELLO. This is our story. We are the HEARTFELT Project, set up in Makapanstad, South Africa.
Our beautiful hand-made products are made by very special ladies and each one carries a message of hope.
There are now 10 ladies who work at the project. Our little designs are being well received both locally and internationally, helping us to heal the hearts of many people in the local community.
You can read more about who we are and what we do on our website. Or by reading the story below. Warm regards,
The HEARTFELT ladies
The HEARTFELT story
In 2005 Martha Letsoalo’s youngest son Emanuel (aged 26) was put into Pretoria Juvenile Prison accused of murder. There was enough evidence to prove that he didn’t do it – however the lawyer given to her by the Government decided that instead of getting Emanuel out, he would leave him there. A corrupt way to make more money.
He knew that a desperate mother like Martha would do anything to free her son. And after all, as a single black South African woman from a rural community – with very little knowledge of the judicial system – who was going to listen to her story? Earning R1300 per month, he made her pay him R1000 each month. Leaving her with only R300 to survive on. This went on for nine long months.
Martha could only visit Emanuel at the prison on a Saturday. She traveled there every weekend from Makapanstad – a journey that was far away. She never complained, always happy to see his face. Although, trying not to let it show she knew he was being badly mistreated in prison.
One Saturday, when she got to the prison he was no longer there. Without her lawyer telling her the authorities had moved Emanuel from Pretoria Juvenile Prison to Johannesburg Juvenile Prison – a place that not only had a bad reputation but was even further away for her to now travel to.
When she finally found him, she could tell something was wrong. He looked very ill and needed medical attention. She phoned the lawyer who said he needed more money before he would help. She didn’t have any. Each day, with no medical attention, she became more and more desperate.
It got to the stage where he couldn’t even drink water on his own. How was he doing it when she wasn’t around? She was told he had Tuberculosis (TB). He could also have picked up HIV/AIDS.
Out of desperation Martha called Julie Masureik (one of the children she had looked after for a family in Pretoria for 20 years). Martha was like a mother to her. They had spoken on the phone a few months before and Julie (who was living in the UK) had said to call if she needed help. She was devastated to hear that Emanuel had been put into prison.
Together they desperately attempted to get Emanuel out. Each day was a life or death situation. They found a new lawyer who took on the case. Sadly it was too little too late.
One week before his release, Emanuel died – all alone in his prison cell. It literally broke Martha’s heart. Suspiciously his prison file disappeared soon after and to this day she has no idea what really happened to her son.
To heal her broken heart, Martha together with Julie started the HEARTFELT Project. Sewing the hearts gave Martha a reason to carry on. Each heart is a symbol of her love for her son. Each heart is filled with her story. Each heart is filled with hope.
Martha is a survivor. She is a strong woman of Africa. She understands that she is not alone – so are all the women employed by The HEARTFELT Project. They all have their own stories to tell. Each heart is filled with hope for their community. Hope for their children’s future and hope for them.
The HEARTFELT Project employs five women – who work together to create heartfelt products that are uniquely South African. As the project grows the aim is to employ many more women – and to reach out to the community.
Proceeds from each heart go directly to the ladies as well as to help fight TB, HIV & AIDS and other socio-economic problems in the community by donating a portion of each sale to a local charity. To help better the lives of not only the ladies but the community as a whole.
At the HEARTFELT Project we are continuously working on and developing new products – currently looking at ways to develop a recycled range from materials found in the households of the women and the community.
Promoting socially responsible tourism and export
The HEARTFELT Project aims to break away from the culture of mass produced curio craft to produce products that are truly unique and individual. We are currently selling to safari lodges, a selection of curio shops within South Africa, as well as to individuals and retail outlets within the UK.
The HEARTFELT community
Makapanstad is a small rural community situated in Moretele, the North West province of South Africa. The HEARTFELT Project operates out of Martha’s home there. Hopefully one day Martha and the ladies will have their own workshop on the property to work from. At present there is still no running water or proper ablution facilities.
Simply by purchasing a HEARTFELT product you will be helping both the ladies and the people of Makapanstad. The HEARTFELT Project offers its support by donating money from each product sold. That means that every time you buy a heartfelt gift for a special someone, you help a special someone too.
And you never know – it could be one of the ladies’ mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, brother, sister or even child that could be helped one day.
Helping the community heal the nation
Chosen by the HEARTFELT ladies, A re Aganeng Health Services is a community based non-governmental organization set up to help under privileged & disadvantaged people in the Makapanstad community. It provides accessible health services to TB patients, HIV/AIDS patients, the old aged, orphans, vulnerable children and chronically ill people. As well as providing counselling to traumatized people and rape victims.
Established in 2006 by compassionate community members made up of teachers, nurses, home based care, care givers, pastors and paramedics – the HEARTFELT Project aims to donate to A Re Aganeng on a monthly basis, and feels it needs all the love and support it can get.
All donations are welcome
Equipment & supplies: if your firm has furniture (eg tables and chairs) or other equipment and supplies that you can donate to the HEARTFELT Project, we will gladly accept it.
Organisational support & collaborations: if you are aware of an organization that works on issues of poverty alleviation, economic development and TB or HIV prevention and education – please share our story.
Story submitted to SAinfo on 8 April 2008