Behind the walls of seemingly nondescript factory premises situated in Knysna's Industria, a passionate group of people is bringing about a remarkable wave of positive change for a number of young men and women from Knysna's more disadvantaged communities. Named “HopeHQ“ (Headquartersof Hope), this is where a combination of faith, dedication and a big dose of love is bringing a brighter future for many.
HopeHQ is a thriving hub of activity. It is the principal premises for Youth for Christ (YFC) Knysna, a non-denominational ministry which aims to directly address the complex social issues faced by the youth in our communities. Their mission is “to participate in the mental, physical, social and spiritual upliftment of young people”. There are currently four divisions within YFC Knysna, namely, the Options Care Centre, Team Khanya, Hands & Hearts Skills Development Centre (“Toolbox Project”) and the Ithemba Craft and Skills Centre. The wide scope of social services and programmes offered here are run by both local and international volunteers, each of whom brings a wealth of knowledge across various fields of expertise.
The Hands & Hearts initiative was launched back in February 2014 with the aim of empowering, developing and uplifting young men in the Knysna community. As part of the curriculum during this one year course, students are taught various trade skills such as building, welding, woodworking, bricklaying, paving, plumbing and tiling.
The Ithemba Craft & Skills Centre focuses around the upliftment of women. 'Ithemba' means hope in Xhosa, which is exactly what this initiative is designed to do – give hope to women in the Knysna Community. There are several programmes on offer, including courses in fashion design, sewing, crocheting, beading and various other crafts.
All the students taking part in these programmes are also taught basic computer and business acumen skills as well as other essential tools needed to enter the workplace or start their own business.
The programmes are offered to participants at a minimal fee, and in order for the centre to be sustainable, the products made by the students are sold as part of an income generating strategy. Each student receives a portion of the funds while the remainder is generated back into the programme for materials and equipment.
In an effort to take these community upliftment efforts to a whole new level, HopeHQ has also recently revived the once thriving ”Feathers of Knysna”, an iconic local company that for many years hand- produced a variety of wooden birds. The owners were extremely generous and donated their remaining stock, and HopeHQ has also re-employed three previous employees from the company who together bring more than 70 years of experience into the fold. From 2017, apprenticeships will be offered to learn the skill of hand crafting (because cutting, shaping & painting will also be taught) birds directly from these masters in their field, which will ensure the long term survival of the project.
These hand-crafted wooden birds, along with a wide variety of other products made by the students, are available for purchase from the HopeHQ Gallery on the premises. We urge both locals and visitors to Knysna to take the time to visit the the HopeHQ Gallery and support this amazing initiative. Various arts and crafts are also sold at the Knysna & Partners tourism office. They will also have a stall at the Leisure Island Festival which takes place 5 & 6 November 2016.