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Passion for teaching - Imelda Cupido's Story

Updated: Nov 26, 2022

Imelda Cupido was born and brought up in Cape Town, a true Capetonian! She married 42 years ago and had 2 children, a boy and a girl, each of who now have 2 children of their own. Both she and her husband Malvern are retired but that does not mean to say that Imelda is sitting back and putting her feet up! Far from it, she is probably busier than she has ever been.

Imelda retired in 2017 from her teaching post at an all girls’ school, where she taught technology (although she does admit this was her weak point!) but needlework and sewing were by far her stronger and better subjects to teach and pass onto the girls. Imelda’s mother had taught her, from a very young age, how to bake, sew, knit and crochet and this obviously stood her in very good stead to create and make a lot of wonderful things, especially when it came to creating the costumes for the school plays and to earn a living as a teacher.

In 2019 Imelda came across a Facebook advert of Yes We Can South Africa Foundation and decided to try its classes (knowing full well how to sew) and to see how the whole structure was run. She was impressed by the operation and business side of the project.  She decided to then get involved and teach the classes which began at the Athlone library in February 2020, as she felt that at this stage of her life she really wanted to give back to and help her community. "Joining Yes We Can has enabled me to work closely with different ethnic groups and different cultures and enabled me to better understand the hardships of women in the townships. After living in a democratic South Africa for 27 years our black sisters are still living in poverty and experiencing hardships. But, through Yes We Can, we are able to empower and uplift so many women who today are running their own businesses and are able to feed their families", shares Imelda. As we are all too aware the dreaded Covid hit South Africa in March last year and all libraries and the rest of the working sector were shut down, and this still, in a way, has an impact as late as today, May 2021.

This of course did not stop the ladies of YWC who dove straight into making washable face masks from the outset of hard lockdown, and they have not stopped to this day! This has created a business that Imelda had no idea would keep bringing into their lives the extra income that she would never have imagined.

"Starting our mask making factories at home last year when lockdown hit us has really kept me going mentally and emotionally and I'm sure the rest of the facilitators can say the same. Personally I could pay it forward by providing masks to soup kitchens in the Bonteheuwel area as well as donating 80 drawstring backpacks to a NPO that assists with getting substance abuse victims to claim back their lives. This was made possible with the help of two other Yes We Can ladies", tells Imelda.

Just before lockdown, her sister had come to visit from France and ended up staying for 5 months! She became part of the "staff" in making these masks (since she was from the same mother who insisted that their children learn to knit, sew, bake and crochet!) And had numerous contacts in both Europe and USA. When she returned to France she took a whole load of orders with her and posted them from Europe which was cheaper than from South Africa. Imelda still receives orders from overseas to this day!

Another of her sisters, who visited Durban bought a whole load of shwehwe fabric at a 1/3rd of the price usually bought in Cape Town and gave it to Imelda to continue making the masks which are still a hot seller to this day. Imelda is busy working on an order for a school for 200 masks. She has also created a label for herself called CupidSouthAfrica and is making bucket hats, bags and all sorts of other goods.

She has also had another small business on the side in which she creates personalised candles for birthdays, funerals, baptisms, christenings, etc. Imelda very kindly put together 3 Sewing Manuals for YWC students. Our manuals are freely available on our website under Resources Section. So a lady with many talents and plenty of creativity that continues on long after retirement!

YWC has kept her busy and creative and lit a fire within her again since retiring in 2017. She has even done her very first radio interview at a Cape Town radio station sharing her journey with others to hear and take inspiration from. With the sales Imelda has made through sewing she has managed to buy a brand new digital sewing machine, cash! Working with YWC has definitely helped her family financially and created new friends of those involved with the organization.

A saying that Imelda has always lived by is that “if you can read, you can then sew, bake, crochet, knit or whatever it is you want to do, as anyone who has this ability can read a pattern or a recipe and therefore create” and this is so true!

"My aim was always to give back to and work with the underprivileged communities when I retired. And I thank God for putting Yes We Can on my path and through that I could fulfil my dream", Imelda said in closing.

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