One can’t help but feel completely inspired after a short conversation with Nashville’s Todd McKee about ToolLife, the organization he co-founded along with Kevin Goughary that is truly changing the course of people’s lives in six communities around the globe. While his role as Executive Director at ToolLife is purely voluntary (his full-time job is as an attorney at McKenzie Laird PLLC), it is obvious that his heart lies in making a significant change in poverty-stricken areas through access to tools and vocational education.
We’ve all heard the saying: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. ToolLife brings this saying to life: by donating tools and teaching skills, the lives of individuals, families and entire communities are improving through their projects in Haiti, Tanzania, Honduras, Moldova, Brazil and right here in Nashville.
The idea seems so simple, and yet it struck Todd as being overlooked. “The idea for ToolLife came from my experiences visiting schools in Tanzania and Haiti. I was there distributing shoes and clothing, and also setting up shoe and clothing micro businesses. I was amazed by how hard folks worked just to be poor. I thought if we could distribute tools, people could work more efficiently and productively. Students learning trades could train with equipment that would help them make a real career with a skill set needed in their community.”
How can your heart not be warmed looking at these photos of ToolLife’s Project: Tanzania‘s Neighbours Without Borders school in Kigoma? These photos were taken on the day they received their industrial sewing machines and an embroidery machine. For me, I continue to tear up as the simplicity of these donations has drastically altered the course of these teenagers’ lives.
Todd says, “This school in Tanzania is special because of the spirit of the kids. When I first went there, it was the happiest place I’d ever been … and yet they had nothing. The trades they were learning were limited by their tools. Sewing by hand, making furniture with simple hand tools, raising crops with homemade hoes and picks. I knew that if I could just get them a few modern, mechanized tools, then overnight, their education would be radically improved. They would be able to learn real skills for the modern world instead of remaining bogged down making ends meet.”
In the few months that these sewing machines have been at this school, life has changed and they are eagerly awaiting the ability to further train their students with more modern farming and wood working equipment. Change is happening and life is improving!
Project: Tanzania is now specifically seeking the following farming and woodworking equipment: router machine, jig saw, power tiller/ ox-plough, water pump, wood drills and bits, wood clamps, wood chisels, and hand saws.
A new project that ToolLife just opened up is Project: Moldova. Looking into the eyes of these 15 year old girls (pictured below), it’s hard to digest that 60-70% of them, upon aging out of their orphanage or the foster care system at the age of 16, will end up in the human or drug trafficking business. Moldova used to be the Napa Valley of the Soviet Union. But, after years of war following the downfall of communism, this gorgeous country is now the poorest in all of Europe and a global center for the sex and drug trade.
ToolLife is now raising money and seeking equipment donations in an effort to create and equip a sewing center and a construction training facility with their partner in Moldova, Help the Children. With this equipment, these same kids who are now faced with a nearly assured future in the criminal sex and drug world, can dream of a life using their learned skills: a happy and healthy life will be accessible through equipment donations and vocational training.
Currently, Help the Children has opened up 20 thrift stores with the “Goodwill” model in Transnistria, Moldova. With the much needed sewing and embroidery machines, the girls will be able to mend the clothes that are donated. In turn, these clothes will have a higher demand and price tag. In other words, the organization to employee girls with seamstress skills is already in place; they just need to be trained and get the equipment.
Svetlana Russu, 17, a “Transitional Care” student from the Popenki Orphanage tells StyleBlueprint, “There is very little job opportunity in Moldova. Young people are not professional and nobody wants to employ them. They have to have skills, but it is hard to get the skills without a job. It can be difficult, as there are not many jobs available. I am worried about how I will find one. A sewing center would make a big difference. It is natural for a woman to sew and women in Moldova are known to be good seamstresses. The job is easy to understand and every girl has some understanding how to mend clothes. So it would not be much of a challenge to learn these skills with machines. Kids like me would be very grateful for the opportunity. They will be able to support themselves and not depend on men.”
Project: Moldova is specifically seeking sewing machines, embroidery machines and carpentry/woodworking tools.
Each of ToolLife’s six projects have specific equipment needs, and this is where they need your help. Do you have an old sewing machine gathering dust? If you fancied yourself a carpenter but that dream got sidelined, do you still have the tools? Do you simply have an extra hammer lying around? Do your kids, or their school, want to organize a “tool drive”? Do you want to donate an entire 5 gallon bucket of tools with just a $50 donation? There are many ways to make a difference with ToolLife and it can be as simple as donating something which you own and aren’t even using.
All brands of tools and machines are accepted. Before sending, ToolLife determines which brands work best for which locations–after researching which parts-suppliers are easily accessible.
Wish lists for each of ToolLife’s 6 projects are found on their website: click here.
Lastly, are you a furniture maker or a seamstress? Whether you have these skills by trade or by hobby, perhaps you would like to consider a trip to help teach these skills. ToolLife can set this up for you. Be a part of the change by donating money, equipment or your time and ability to share your skills. To learn more about donating, please click here.
If you want to hear more about ToolLife, they will be hosting an event at Waller Lansden on October 14th at 5:30 p.m. that will focus on its programs supporting women and young girls. Become a fan on FB to keep up with more details as they are released! click here.
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