Vondeling Optel Crafts
Did you know?
Most of the people making wire and feather angels never had a paying job before this one.
Along a dusty desert track in the Great Karoo is a disused railway siding called Vondeling. There is a primary school, a small church hall and not much else. About 30 families live here, and until 2006 it seemed a place entirely without hope.
But the Vondeling crafts project that started here has lifted income and spirits, and the people here have a new sense of pride. Vondeling has become the angel factory of the Karoo, and the angel-makers love receiving visitors.
Inside a small prefab building you’ll find a rough horseshoe of tables where 13 women and 2 men sit working, chatting and laughing. Above their heads, on the walls, on the tables, hanging from every conceivable place, there are angels.
They are large and small, clothed with felt, crocheted wire or wool; winged and adorned with beads and sparkles.
Every angel has added blessings to this tiny place and these people – many of whom had never had a job before.
Estaline Olyn, one of the project’s leaders, is very proud that this tiny community rose to the challenge when they were offered the opportunity to learn angel-making from a tiny Port Elizabeth consultancy called Craft Partners.
'Here the project took root,' says Olyn. 'When the time came, we stood up and were counted.'
The full name of the project is Vondeling Optel Craft, which literally means 'foundling' or 'picked-up craft', because they started the project by looking at what lay around them.
'We picked up old tins, bits of wood, you know, just things you pick up.'
From this they have progressed to selling angels as far away as Norway, as well as to upmarket retail stores around the country.
Best of all is that they live and work harmoniously together. As grandfather Jan Klaassens says: 'The very best thing of every day is to be able to laugh, and be surrounded by love and peace.'
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Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0) 73 565 0813
Baviaans Tourism Office - Willowmore
Tel: +27 (0) 44 923 1702
Cell: +27 (0) 83 420 5434