Little Travellers an income generation project of the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust
  • Buselaphi

    Beading has made a positive impact on Buselaphi's life. It has made her the sole breadwinner of her household, and has enabled her to pay for electricity, and to purchase a stove, a fridge and a television. On average, Buselaphi earns R600 a week from making Little Travellers.

  • Ester Sibisi

    Ester Sibisi is a 58 year old mother of four, who also cares for her grandchildren, providing them with food and clothing. Ester first came to the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust to get information and tips on growing crops and flowers. At the time Ester had no income but knew how to bead. She wanted to join the Woza Moya beading project and before long she was making Little Travellers. Ester is always trying to grow as a beader and enjoys sharing knowledge and receiving lessons from other crafters. Ester is a very spiritual person and she draws strength from her beading and knows that her work is making a positive difference! Seeing a Little Traveller brings a smile to her face, "I know I can accomplish anything in my house by making them", she explains.

  • Gogo Francisca

    "Before, I hadn't got even shoes. Nothing before. I was too frightened to go outside. I was afraid people were going to laugh. I had nothing. Nothing to eat, no clothes. They mean that God helps me. God helps me to do these dollies. He looks after me."

  • Joyce Mthethwa

    Joyce Mthethwa is 53 years old. Her family includes her husband, two sons, two grandsons, two granddaughters, and her cousin. Joyce has been beading for three years, which is also how long she has been making Little Travellers. Each doll takes her less than one hour to make. For Joyce, making Little Travellers is a joy, and because of it, she has a lot more money in the bank at the end of the month.

  • Ntombi Dlamini

    "I often lay them on my sofa and admire them for a while. I look at them and wish they could talk, breath, and walk. That is how much I love them. Beading makes such a big difference in my life, I love it, I make life out of it ... my entire house has come from the Little Travellers, my fridge, my sofa, the plaster on my walls, EVERYTHING!, when I make Travellers I see a person a friend and this is why I make them beautiful because I am making a person"

  • Thandiwe Chamane

    "They may be small, but they have made a big difference to me and my family. I was dying when I started making them, and I had nothing to live for. I now have a house , my children are going to school and I have a reason to live."

Stitching up torn lives

Today there are trendy teen Little Travellers, cute baby Little Travellers, and Janet’s speciality – sassy footballer Little Travellers inspired by the 2010 Soccer World Cup. 

Each comes with a “passport” to document the places where they go. Customers
are invited to post photographs of them in different locations on To date, Little Travellers have crossed the Egyptian desert, basked on a beach in Timor, perched on a rock beside Denmark’s Little Mermaid, and even scaled Kilimanjaro and Everest. 

In 2006, Canadian medical student Ilan Schwartz volunteered as an intern in the centre’s respite care unit and took home a bag of Little Travellers, opening a new door for distribution. Today, Woza Moya sends up to 10,000 a month to Canada, and has outlets in Australia (through Oxfam and Territory Colours), many European countries, the US, Korea and Japan. 

“The more orders we get, the more crafters we can take on, and the nursing staff keep sending us women desperate to learn and earn,” says Paula earnestly. “This project helps support them and the respite unit, and gives them
self-worth and hope.”  There is still a lot of stigma about HIV/AIDS, but at Woza Moya the women can talk openly and share their problems and solutions. Paula watches them join the project afraid and deeply depressed. “Then they grow wings!”

The women bring finished pieces to the centre every Friday. “They never let me down, even if they’re so weak they have to be carried by relatives,” says Paula. “There’s an incredible energy and love here – even my kids sense it and adore coming.” (She often brings daughters Ella, six, Tess, four, and son Angus, 18 months, to the centre.) “Everyone feels valued and important, a part of something bigger.” 

Woza Moya’s most ambitious project yet is a commission for a beaded wallhanging for Durban’s spectacular new Moses Mabhida Stadium, built ahead of the World Cup. The women were asked to create a giant map of Africa from flatbeading (where beads are stitched to each other, not to fabric). They had just six weeks to complete it. 

“I wondered if we could do it,” confesses Paula, “But they proved again what teamwork can do!” 

When Paula showed the women the completed map, stretching four by three metres, they were deeply moved to be part of an extraordinary artwork that would be seen by international dignitaries and celebrities. “They could see how weaker pieces were lifted by those that were stronger, but that however well or poorly beaded, each piece was needed,” she marvels. Just like the women themselves.  

Publication Date: 
01 May 2010