Thousands of learners at the Khayalami Primary school have received brand new school shirts made from repurposed bed linen donated by Gauteng hotels. Picture: Daniel Born

Johannesburg - Have you ever thought of how your bed sheet could change lives?

On Monday, thousands of learners at the Khayalami Primary school in Midrand, received brand new school shirts made from repurposed bed linen donated by Gauteng hotels.

Behind this initiative is Danolene Johannesen, who founded the non-profit organisation Royal Kidz in 2013. The NPO, which seeks to restore dignity to children from impoverished communities by providing school uniforms and shoes, launched the Sheets For Shirts project in Cape Town in 2018 and has now grown to Gauteng.

The school uniform shirts are made from high quality sheets sourced from eight Marriott International hotels in Gauteng.

“As these hotels replace their bed linen on a regular basis, we are delighted to donate sheets which can be converted into school shirts at the Restore SA workshop in Cape Town,“ says Josie Lyon, Vice President and Assistant Regional Counsel, Law Department, Marriott International, Middle East and Africa, who manages Marriott International’s involvement in the project. “A big thanks must go to our courier company who kindly transported the sheets from our Gauteng hotels to the workshop.

“Five school shirts can be made from one king size bed sheet, which offers high-quality cotton perfectly suited for reuse in school shirts. The Khayalami Primary School was selected as the majority of staff at our regional Johannesburg office live in Tembisa and the community is close to our hearts.”

The Sheets for Shirts project kicked off during back-to-school season in January 2019, with a donation of almost 300 school shirts to Cape Town learners. This was followed by a Mandela Day donation of another 1 000 school shirts.

Since the beginning of the project, 600 sheets have been used to make 2 300 shirts for 2 300 children at two schools across South Africa. The eight Marriott International Hotels in Johannesburg have additionally donated raincoats and shoes to the learners.

Marriott International’s involvement started when they offered support to Royal Kidz three years ago, as a Corporate Social Investment project. The Sheets for Shirts initiative was conceptualised last year when the hotel group realised the old bed linen could be repurposed to make school shirts.

A R1.2 million investment by Marriott International allowed Johanessen to start Restore SA Pty Ltd, which employs local seamstresses and dedicates 40% of its profits to fund the Royal Kidz uniform project.  Restore SA has a permanent workshop in Cape Town and an online retail store. 

“Working with Marriott International has not only made my dream of having a workshop come true, but more importantly it has also allowed me to create employment and make a difference in the lives of children from impoverished communities,” says Johanessen.