‘Tiyamike’ Let us give thanks


Sometimes people looking to come out on the mission field have a particular set of skills and training which they are not sure will be useful in this context. Often they look to develop a new set of skills which will have more use in the missions setting. Such is the case with Jo Ong.

She trained in Industrial Design, which included things such as graphic design, product design and so on, but then went for teacher training when she felt the call to missions work.

Now a combination of those industrial-design skills and her teaching experience have come together in a new project she has set up. That project is ‘Tiyamike’ – the Chichewa word for ‘Let us give thanks’.


 6 June saw the colourful graduation ceremony for these first 9 ladies – a very proud and happy moment!!

Give thanks for skills

“Tiyamike is a sewing project with ladies, initially, from a local Africa Evangelical Church (AEC) here in Blantyre but eventually it will reach out to others,” Jo said.

“I came up with the name of the project because I want to give thanks for the skills which God has given to me and I can pass on to other people, and I hope that they will want to give thanks for the new skills they learn which will help them in their everyday lives.

“I started working with five ladies but word spread and another four joined the group. I had to stop at nine because we only have five machines!”

Jo has been keen on sewing since her mum taught her how to hand sew and use a machine when she was about seven. And she has already started passing on these skills to her own seven-year-old daughter, Teaghan, and to their Malawian house worker, Chrissie.

Ladies hard at work in Tiyamike Sewing Project 

This training has been using electric machines, but Jo bought five treadle-operated sewing machines which she uses to train the AEC ladies. Initially the training will allow them to get used to the machines, not necessarily an instinctive thing for most Malawians, to teach basic stitches and, for example, to allow them to mend clothes or to make school uniforms for their children.

Testing the market

“When I started thinking about this project I felt I needed to test the market so I made a range of bags, purses and other things to sell at a school fair. The response was very positive and the items sold well. This leads me to think that there is a market there, especially for ex-pats who want to take or send Malawian products to friends and family back home,” said Jo.

“The ladies are learning well but the hardest thing was learning how to use the treadle. Having learned some basic skills they are now working on perfecting them. At the moment the ladies are working on ‘souvenirs’ for which I ‘pay’ them every week. The products are then sold at local school fairs. Profits, in the way of points, go to the ladies to enable them to ‘buy’ their machine.”

One of the first graduates taking home her sewing machine!

Teaching teenagers

But there is another side to Tiyamike, and that is working with teenage girls to teach them how to sew. Jo and Pete, as part of their primary ministry working with children and youth, run a Kids Club at their house. Jo is looking to teach the older girls some basic hand sewing to help them.

“Sewing used to be taught in school in Malawi so girls were being taught these skills from an early age. But it has recently been dropped from the curriculum, so the girls do not know how to do simple things like repairs or even sewing buttons on to clothes. Working with the Kids Club, another part of our work in Malawi, has given me a willing group of girls who want to learn, and I pray that this will also help them,” said Jo.

First graduates

 “As for the main part of the work, we are looking to have a new group of ladies every six months and hope the first group will ‘graduate’ before Pete and I go on Home Assignment so they can then take their machines away. I am hoping to start a new group after Home Assignment.

“I am sure the ladies from this first group will be able to repair clothes and make new garments and, for some of the more gifted, be able to set up in business for themselves, also that some may be able to come back to the project as teachers for future groups.”

Jo’s Malawian house worker Chrissie concentrating hard