Thozana Mbulawa


Thozana was born in the small village of Salem, which mean “place of peace.” She was raised on a farm where, at an early age, she learned the traditional craft of making grass mats. Unsure of when she was born, she approximates her age as 58 years. Her children are grown but she has taken in four orphaned girls who range in age from eight to 16 years of age. She has no formal schooling and speaks no English.

Thozana has managed to earn a meager living by making and selling mats, though sales are very sporadic. She lives in the Hlalani Squatter Camp outside Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, where she has built a one-roomed house in the traditional style using clay packed over mud, sticks and a tin roof. Her house has no furniture other than a small single bed.  The settlement has no facilities such as electricity, piped water or roads.

Thozana and her children

Prior to the Orphan Bracelet Campaign, Thozana says she often went without food, as she has no access to a pension or a regular outlet for her craft. Thozana has been a part of the Orphan Bracelet Campaign crafter program for several years and thanks to your bracelet purchases, she is able to earn a living wage.

When she received her first income from making bracelets, she used the money to buy staples like mealie meal, flour, oil, beans and sugar, plus paraffin, which is needed to cook, when a stove is available. Now, she is able to feed her girls and even buy meat, as your bracelet purchases keep her employed.