Feathers of Knysna was one of the icons of the town during its spectacular growth as a tourism destination. The iconic business employed more than 80 people in the factory and helped to spread the brand of Knysna around the world. But in April 2016, the Feathers of Knysna owners retired and began to take steps to close the factory.
Thanks to Youth For Christ (YFC) Knysna however, the factory that brought prosperity and hope to many local families, has become a hive of activity once again as the new home of its non-profit company called HOPE HQ, “Headquarters of Hope”, which is reviving the bird-making industry.
HOPE HQ has managed to obtain the skills of previous Feathers’ employees Joseph Beel, Josephine May and Ilse Jansen. After he was retrenched, Joseph worked as a car guard at Metelerkamps, while Ilse was employed as a domestic worker. Josephine was one of the last employees at Feathers, assisting mostly with repairing and selling the remaining birds. Reviving their old skills, Joseph is now cutting the birds by hand from blocks of wood, which are then sanded and carved by Ilse and painted by Josephine.
Director of HOPE HQ Philip Schroder explains that the factory is focussing on the manufacture of the Knysna Loerie, Hoepoe, Egret, Kingfisher and Lilac-Breasted Roller. “What makes these birds unique is that each one of them is handmade – from the carving to the painting,” he says.
“HOPE HQ apprentices will be offered the opportunity to learn the skill of bird-making directly from the masters, to ensure the continuation of this amazing project.”
As an income-generating project for Youth for Christ Knysna HOPE HQ will assist with the financial stability of YFC’s two skills development centres: Hands & Heart Skills Development Centre which focusses on uplifting and developing young men in various skills including building, welding, woodworking, bricklaying, paving, plumbing, and tiling; and iThemba Craft and Skills Development Centre which develops women and men by presenting courses in basic computer skills, sewing, crocheting, beading, painting craft and so on. These programmes seek to empower, uplift and develop young men and women from vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. Both practical and life skills are shared with students, equipping them with the essential tools to enter the workplace or start their own business. Students are encouraged and assisted to develop their full potential and also to seize both employment and personal growth opportunities. The programmes also promote emotional and spiritual development through social communications, leadership training, self-development and problem solving skills. Products made are sold as part of an income-generating strategy and each student receives a portion of the funds. The rest of the funds are invested back into the programme for materials and equipment.
Says Schroder: “HOPE HQ is touching the lives of many young people and will continue to bring hope and equip the youth of our town for a future of possibility rather than the hopelessness of unemployment.”
Individuals and businesses can make a meaningful impact on the future of our youth by booking the Hope Tour at Hope HQ, 13 Uil Street, Knysna Industrial Area purchasing a beautiful bird, or by pledging finances, resources or volunteering time to the exciting initiatives being undertaken there.
“This is an ideal opportunity to make a real difference to young lives and the future,” says Schroder. “At HOPE HQ we believe that all of us have a responsibility to bring light and hope to our communities, overcome challenges and build a better life for the youth of South Africa. We believe that 13 Uil Street is truly a “Headquarters of Hope”.