This is the VOA Special English Development Report.
Every three weeks, a truck drives to a rural community in the Kingdom of Swaziland. The purpose of the trip is to buy the hand-made products of local women and place new orders.
The Swazi women make and sell woven baskets, placemats for dinner tables and other objects for the home. The women gained their weaving skills long ago. Traditionally, women in the African nation work with long grasses to make the thatched roofs that cover houses.
The manufacture of goods is important for the women because they can do this at home. Many care for a number of children, including those whose parents died of AIDS. Swaziland is said to have the highest known rate of infection for the virus that causes the disease.
But life is brighter for the women weavers today than it was seventeen years ago. That is when a business project called Gone Rural was launched. Today, more than seven hundred women take their goods to Gone Rural for sale. One of their main materials is Lutindzi grass, which grows only in mountain areas. Gone Rural also has some products available in other materials.
The project now has sales of five hundred thousand dollars worth of goods each year. The goods are sold in more than thirty countries around the world.
Three years ago, Gone Rural started a nonprofit organization called Gone Rural boMake. Its purpose is to provide for the educational, health and social needs of the women and their communities. The parent organization gives Gone Rural boMake at least twenty percent of its profits and helps with administrative costs. The non-profit organization's projects include working to provide communities with clean drinking water.
Lomtandaso Hlope was one of the first seven hundred women to weave for Gone Rural. Years ago, she and other women from her community went to the Gone Rural office in the town of Malkerns. They showed their goods to Jenny Thorne, who established Gone Rural. Miz Thorne happily accepted what they made.
Lomtandaso Hlope and her friends have been selling to Gone Rural ever since. Their community is among thirteen that sell to the group. She has educated her own children and grandchildren with the money earned from her work.
This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Steve Ember.