The self-styled "wonder welders" of Dar es Salaam were offered technical training in welding by a local businessman Paul Joynson-Hicks in an imaginative scheme which has changed the lives of men who previously had to beg on the streets to live.
In Tanzania, like many African countries, there is little provision for people who are handicapped. Now their artistic collective creates and sells metal animal sculptures using scrap metal. With assistance from a local welding expert, they learned how to weld using recycled scrap metal, transforming the waste material into animals. The welders are now fully self-sufficient and receive special commissions from national and international buyers. In the last two years, they have expanded the project to include handmade recycled paper and paper products, handmade wooden toys made from sustainably-harvested Tanzanian woods like coconut and mpodo and natural handmade soaps.
Despite being a social enterprise that has demonstrated near-complete self-sufficiency, Wonder Welders does not specifically brand or market itself a “social business.” Apart from its website, there is no indication that products are made by disabled workers. Hicks, originally from the UK, has never attended a social enterprise conference and never called himself a social entrepreneur. In Tanzania and other parts of Africa, people with disabilities often are not considered hireable—Hicks simply hired them.
“If everyone knew the products were made by disabled workers, many would buy them just to support the organization,” Hicks says. “Instead, we’d rather people buy them because they’re high-quality, recycled pieces of art. And they do!”