When we first met Anabela a couple of years ago she was extremely withdrawn and suffered from anxiety and depression. Over the past few years she has come alive with purpose and her creativity has bloomed.
Anabella has 5 children. Her two grownup children live with family, and her other three children aged 13, 9 and 6 are here with her. " I love crocheting best" she tells me with a shy smile. We're so proud of how far she has come!
"My name is Angeline. I haven't been able to see my children for a few years. They are 8 and 4 years old. I sent my oldest to stay with family when they were 4 years old and the youngest at age 2. I miss them a lot, but it is easier to work and make money when I know they are being looked after at home. I love sewing and can sew with a sewing machine."
"My name is Chipo. Being a part of the Rare Bear Project for the past 5 years has allowed me to be able to pay for school fees for my 15 year old. It also means I can pay rent for my home and groceries to feed my other two children who are 8 and 5 years old. I love making the sheep Rare Bear most of all."
"My name is Codester. I have 3 children. My eldest is 6 and is in school. My little one is three months old and was born during lockdown at Coronation hospital."
Codester's little boy has the most beautifully expressive eyes. Codester is a star crocheter and her animals are always meticulously made. She tells me her favourite one to make is a unicorn.
"My name is Dorcas and I love hairdressing. I have a 4 year old who is here with me. I miss my family who all live far away and I am working hard to make enough money to go see them again."
"My name is Elina . I have 2 children - a 5 year old and almost 2 year old. I am also pregnant again! I was going to school, but when I was in grade 7 my mother died and I had to go back home. I got married when I was 15, and had my first baby at 16. I’m 21 now and am working hard to earn some money."
"My name is Eliza. I have three children. My 11 and 6 year old are with my parents and the youngest is here with me. She is not very happy to have her picture taken today, but she doesn't usually cry like this, she is a happy baby. I wanted to be a nurse when I was young."
"My name is Elizabeth. I have two children aged 17 and 10. My favourite animal to make is the unicorn. I also grow and sell tomatoes in KyaSands."
"My name is Esther, I have one baby who is a year old. I like baking biscuits and bread, but we have to make them over a fire here in the township because we don't have ovens."
Esther's little girl was NOT impressed with the camera.
"My name is Jane, My three children are 19, 15 and 5. Besides crocheting, I love cooking, especially okra. I boil the okra in hot water with bicarb and salt until it gets very slimy, and then we eat it with pap and chilli sauce."
"My name is Julia. I have 4 children (14, 10, 7 and 3 months).Three of my children are with their grandparents and the youngest is 3 months. My dream is to learn more. I never had a chance to study more and left school at age 10. I really want to learn more and study more."
"My name is Kholisani, and I have been crocheting with Rare Bears for many years. My eldest daughter is 26 and she has her own child. I also have a 6 year old and twin girls of 4 who go to crèche. I love making pap and chicken curry for my children."
"I have 6 children. They are 18, 16, 13, 10, 8, and 2."
Lydia is one of our most vulnerable ladies with a big load on her shoulders.
"3 of my children suffer from epilepsy. My eldest son who is 18 didn't speak after he had his first seizure - he was 4 years old. Only a few years ago, when we were able to get him some medication, did he improve a little bit. He gets violent when he is hungry and there is no food. I didn't know that my 8 year old daughter also had epilepsy until a few weeks ago."
"My name is Linet. I have 6 children. My eldest is at 15 and staying with me, then I have 3 children with my parents - my youngest 2 are with me as well - they are 2.5 and 1.5 . Our children will go to my family when they are old enough. I want to be able to work hard to give them the best life."
"My name is Loice."
Loice was another one of our ladies who joined in 2015 and then went back home for years only to return this year because of difficult economic times.
“I need to earn money for food and school fees back home. My children are living with my husband’s mother. The schools are now closed because of Covid19. It’s a difficult time."
"My name is Maleshoanne. I have 4 children who are 10, 8, 5 and 6 months old. I have just joined the Rare Bear Project. My favourite thing to do is cleaning and organizing."
"My name is Malyne . I have two children who are staying with family. I learned how to crochet through Mufaro who taught me. I also try to earn extra money by buying bulk clothes to sell in Kya Sands."
"My name is Maria. All five of my children stay with my parents. They are 20, 16, 14, 11 and 3. I've been a part of the Rare Bear Project since 2016. Crocheting rare bears helps me pay for school fees so that my children can have an education."
"My name is Mavis. I have three children. They are 12, 10 and 8 months. When my little one was born I didn't know that 2020 was going to turn out the way it has! I loved playing netball when I was at school. My favourite animal to crochet for the Rare Bear Project is the unicorn!"
"My name is Mavis. I have three children aged 10, 8, and 1. I last saw all my family 11 years ago. All my children live here with me though. During lockdown when there was no school it was difficult to keep all the children happy in a small space. I did a lot of shouting "come here, don't do that!" I am glad that the schools have opened up again."
"My name is Mercy. I have only one child who is 5 years old. I didn't expect 2020 to be this difficult. Thankfully Codester taught me how to crochet and I am now part of the Rare Bear family. I also love baking cakes!"
"My name is Miriam and I am a musician!"
Miriam proudly pulls out two CDs she has made out of her bag.
"I love singing, my music is contemporary. I have 4 children aged 39, 37, 33 and 26. My favourite animal to make for the Rare Bear Project is an elephant."
"My name is Mollene. I have three children, 11, 8 and 5 and they all live with my mother. My mother taught me how to crochet when I was young, and I'd make the things she used to make, like tablecloths and doilies and mats and jerseys. When I joined the Rare Bear Project I learned I can make other things as well like different animals. I love crocheting and finding new things to make."
"My name is Monica . I have 2 children ... well actually 3 children"
She smiles and points to her swollen belly, “I’m due anytime now. I plan to have the baby in the Krugersdorp hospital. The pregnancy has been fine except for some blood pressure problems. I can’t wait to meet my new baby!"
"My name is Mufaro and I have 3 children. My 12 and 8 year old stay with my parents and my youngest is one and a half. She loves to copy me and takes a crochet hook and wool and tries to also crochet, it is very cute. I've been part of the Rare Bear Project since 2015 and from the money I earn through crocheting I've been able to pay school fees and send food and stationary home to my other children who live with my mother."
"My name is Natalia."
Natalia has the most stunning eyes.
"I have two children aged 14 and 10 who live with family and two aged 19 and 6 who live here with me. My favourite animal to crochet is a giraffe. I love doing business and selling snacks in Kya Sands where I live."
"My name is Nozipho. My children are 18, 10 and 3 years old."
Nozipho and her son look lovely dressed up for Heritage day this year and she is proudly South African.
"I love sewing clothes and I know how to use a sewing machine"
She tells me she has one at home - but it is a manual one because there is no electricity in her shack.
"My name is Patience. I have a 4 year old son and my daughter is three months old. She was born during the worst time of the pandemic, but I am thankful the birth went well and she and I both came home healthy. I love baking for my family. My favourite recipes are for bread and muffins."
"My name is Progeny. I have three children. My 12 and 8 year old live with their grandparents and my youngest daughter will be 2 at the end of the year. She lives here with me."
Prog is one of our leaders among the ladies.
Prog tells me she is most proud of herself and who she has become. She's proud to be a part of the Rare Bear Project and of the group of ladies here.
"My name is Rabhelani and this is my 2 year old daughter. My favourite food is chicken, but not the kind you buy at Pick and Pay or Checkers . We cook chicken that is fresh fresh - we take a live chicken and then kill and pluck it and cook it - it tastes so much better that way."
"My name is Regina. I've been a part of the Rare Bear Project for 5 years now. When we first learned how to crochet we made lots of mistakes and the animals looked funny, but now we do really good work. I have three children aged 7, 4 and 2 months. My dream is to become a preschool teacher and do a course that will allow me to learn how to become an educator."
"My name is Rofhiwa. I have 2 children who are both here with me - they are 7 and 4 years old. I grew up in a place is a lot more quiet than here in Johannesburg, but there are more work opportunities here. I like crocheting bunnies."
"My name is Rumbidzai. I have two children, 8 and 5 years old who are both with my parents. I haven't seen them in over a year now. It is better that they are at home with my family so that I am free and able to work to earn money to support them. Besides crocheting for Rare Bears I also have piece work some days. I send money home for school fees and food for my children."
"My name is Ruth. I am a grandmother of 4 and a mother to 5 children who range between 32 years and 9 years. They all live far from me. I learned to crochet with the Rare Bear group in 2016. Being a part of this group allows me the opportunity to earn money to buy groceries to send back to my family."
"My name is Ruth as well. I last saw my children two years ago. The family in looking after my children tell me they are surviving the pandemic this year."
"My name is Ruth. My children are 27, 22 and 16. I never had the opportunity to go to school to read and write. I wanted my children to have a better life than me and to be able to read and write and get jobs. I used to knit doilies and jerseys and table cloths before joining the project. I like baking scones and bread."
"My name is Samantha . My 4 year old daughter is with my parents and I just gave birth to little Clark on the 15th of August in Coronation Hospital. He has already gained 2 kg in the past 2 months. He’s a good baby and sleeps during the day... but not so much at night! I miss my daughter. I haven’t seen her since 2017. She stays with my mom."
"My name is Shelter and I'm the mother of 4. Last year my family doubled in size when I gave birth to twins. I didn't know I was having twins until later in my pregnancy and was very surprised, shocked, but happy. After the girls were born it was a very tiring time because I was breastfeeding and I lost a lot of weight quickly trying to keep them fed. I had to supplement their feeding with formula. They are a year now and starting to walk which is good because I get tired carrying them both."
"My name is Shinga, I am the mother of 3. My 10 and 8 year old are with my family. They are coming back to me soon to come to school. My little one is one year old and her name is Marvelous. I love crocheting sheep."
"My name is Sphiwe. I have 2 children aged 8 and 2 and have been crocheting for the project since 2015. I love cooking Magwina- vetkoek. My favourite animal to crochet is the zebra."
"My name is Sukoluhle. I have 4 children, they are all with my mother except for my baby. Last year I took my younger two back to her. It is difficult leaving your children behind and leaving to find work."
"My name is Sylvia, I am a mother of 5 children. They are 17, 12, 9, 7 and the little one is 11 months. Only the baby is here with me, the others live with my mother. I haven't seen them for 2 years now. I also love cooking. My favourites to make are pap and chips with beans and vegetables."
"My name is Tadzidza. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a football player. I loved playing around with a ball and kicking it. I am now a mother of 3 children aged 10, 6 and 1 years old."
"My name is Tendai. My 10 and 5 year old live with my parents and I just had a new baby girl a month ago. She was born at Coronation Hospital. The doctor did a c-section but I don’t know why, they just told me they had to take the baby out that way. I plan to go back to visit my family and show them the new baby as soon as I can."
"My name is Tshifhiwa. I have two children aged 7 and 3 years old. When I was a child growing up I used to want to be a nurse. Now I am just a nurse to my children because every mother has to be a nurse as well. My favourite thing to do is cooking. I love cooking pap and meat for my family."
"My name is Veronica, my first baby, a little girl was born at Diepsloot Clinic during the heavy lockdown 3 months ago. Everything went well and I wasn't afraid because God is my helper. Shinga taught me how to crochet 5 months ago and I joined the Rare Bear group. Making the giraffe is my favourite."
"My name is Vimbai. I have two children. My son is 12 and lives with his uncle in Pretoria and I stay in Kya Sands with my daughter who is 4. All my family could do to earn a little money was grow crops. If there were no rains, or too much rain, and the crops failed we would have no other backup plans. Coming to Johannesburg I can work and earn money and not have to rely on crops."
Zodwa joined our program years ago, and then went back to her family when her youngest was a baby.
“What I didn’t realise when I travelled back was that I was pregnant again. I told my husband I thought something was wrong with my digestive system because things were moving around. I had a young baby and was breastfeeding and didn’t even think I could be pregnant. My baby was born at home and now I’ve just come back a month ago. I love helping people and want to make a difference."
Megan & Didi
We are the ones hard at work behind the scenes - placing orders, collecting the freshly made Rare Bears, washing them, arranging delivery & trying our hardest to grow this project!