“We were able to learn so many new things”

Bernardo Mwingira’s parents are small farmers who live off the fruits of their fields, and, if the harvest has been good, may have enough to sell on the market what they don’t need themselves. Bernardo himself is a joiner. Thanks to his skills, people in Nandembo have been able to buy simple or customized furniture for a number of years. He was able to learn his trade in KIUMA.

Bernardo and his nine siblings – two girls and seven boys – grew up in Twendembele, a village with about 4,500 residents. The ten siblings are from Bernardo’s mother and his father’s second wife. This is not unusual in the region, because many men in the Tunduru district still have several wives. They all lived together in a hut, whose roof was already made from corrugated steels, whilst many other huts in the village were still covered with grass. However, Bernardo wanted more from life: “Poverty and the poor living conditions in the village were the reason for permanent hopelessness. Apart from that, we were unable to get many things, which actually are part of everyday life nowadays.”

Small trader with kiosk

In spite of this hopelessness, Bernardo pursued a career, which distinguished him from most villagers: Instead of – as it was the norm in the region due to a lack of other alternatives – also earning his living as a small farmer, he became a retailer, which normally involves selling washing powder, soap and other basic everyday-items in a small kiosk. Bernardo had only attended school for seven years. Hence, this job was probably the best he could achieve in this part of the country. About ten years ago, he learned about KIUMA, the wortundtat project, which is about 50 kilometres or a 90 minute drive away from KIUMA. People, living in the district do not normally travel this distance without having an important reason, as hardly anybody has a car or another motorised vehicle. However, Bernardo, who was 24 at the time, set out and managed to get a place at the KIUMA craft school. There he attended the joinery for two years and received an official certificate at the end of his training.


Zusammen mit einigen Kollegen hat Bernardo die Schreinerei in Nandembo aufgebaut.

Meeting strangers and making new experiences

He liked the idea of learning a skill and having access to all the other facilities for young people at the KIUMA site. “However, most important was meeting complete strangers and the opportunity to learn so many new things”, he remembers.

After completing his training, he purposefully applied what he had learned. Together with other former apprentices and some local joiners without formal training he set up a Joinery Association. Each member contributes his skills to the little workshop; profits are equally shared and so far there has not been any competition.

Training for young men

The team already trains new members of staff. However, it is not yet possible for them to obtain a recognised certificate. But KIUMA plans to build a Centre of Hope in Nandembo. As soon as this is complete, apprentices of Bernardo and his colleagues will be able to obtain a recognised degree.

But these are not the young man’s only visions for the future: once the joinery proves to be a success, Bernardo wants to acquire some woodworking machinery. So far everything is still made by hand. These machines would not only make the joiners’ work easier, they would be another huge step in the development of the small village, which so far has to live and work practically without any machinery at all.