Hlekweni was a training centre founded by Quakers in 1967. It worked through the years of white colonial rule and the days of UDI grounded in values of integrity, cooperation and compassion, committed to helping build a multi-cultural society of equal opportunity for all Zimabweans.
Over 11,000 people took the 6-month courses that offered practical knowledge to enable graduates to support themselves and their families in sustainable ways. Training included: building, carpentry, plumbing, sewing and garment making, early childhood education and sustainable agricultural methods. There was a thriving school, Samathonga, on the Hlekweni site.
Hlekweni also provided training in the rural hinterland of Matabeleland. Skills for sustainable livelihoods were spread through outreach work. In the later years, before its closure in 2014, peace education and training in conflict resolution became part of the core curriculum for all its trainees.
In the direst of financial climates within Zimbabwe, Friends of Hlekweni raised money to pay student bursaries and trainers’ salaries, to improve the infrastructure as well as supporting business ventures and mini-enterprises. In this way, Friends of Hlekweni helped to provide some stability for the extended families both of trainers and trainees.
During recent years, for a variety of reasons, the Rural Training Centre became increasingly difficult to run on a financially sustainable basis and despite a number of attempts to revive its fortunes, it was forced to close in 2014.
At that point, the charity Friends of Hlekweni re-oriented its aims and objectives so as to continue to help the people of Zimbabwe through education and peace-building, principally in the areas around Bulawayo where the Hlekweni Training Centre was sited.