For the past 25 years Rabbi Stuart Serwator of Claremont has been helping plus-size men and boys find comfortable clothes which fit.
“The struggle of plus-size men in finding fitting clothes is real. We all like to wear clothes which are fitting us well.So imagine how uncomfortable it feels going to work or school every day in clothes which are too small,” said Rabbi Serwator when he contacted Vukani trying to raise awareness about his passion.
A teacher by profession, Rabbi Serwator said his friend who lived in Khayelitsha and who works for a major security company was struggling to get clothes which fitted properly.
The clothes he needed for his uniform were outside the size-range that the company used to place its orders with its clothing-provider.
“He could not close the bottom buttons of his shirts as his tummy was too wide.To close the shirt-buttons around his chest was also difficult as his chest was wide and heavy,” said Rabbi Serwator.
He could not close the buttons of the top of his trousers and the belt was too short.
Imagine travelling with public transport, and having to work almost every day, in such clothes.
On top of this, he was too shy to ask his supervisor for bigger clothes in case it might became grounds for incompetence, thus dismissal.
He and his wife were supporting three school-going children.
“So, with his permission, I walked around the many houses near where he worked as a guard, politely brought the matter to the homeowners’ attention, and asked for contributions so I could arrange a bigger uniform for him,” Rabbi Serwator said.
People were generous and he collected about R3 000 in cash in one evening.
“Then I took my friend to a uniform factory, where he was measured and size-appropriate clothes were made for him,” he added.
Last year, after the rabbi had an appointment at Groote Schuur Hospital, he walked down to the Main Road to catch a bus home.
A boy in school uniform walked past him.
“His trousers were so tight for his wide thighs that it looked like any minute they might tear. I didn’t want to embarrass him so I made enquiries, found out that he attends a school nearby, and called his Mom. They live in Khayelitsha and I took them to a school-uniform factory whose owners are my friends,” said Rabbi Serwator.
There he was measured and trousers were made specially for him, at cost but no mark-up of a retailer.
Yolisa Mzondo who met Rabbi Serwator whilst doing doing Grade 7 at Eluxolweni Primary School in 2011 has nothing but praise for him.
“He found me via a friend who also a big guy and arranged through the school to meet with my parents who agreed for him to take under his wing,” said Yolisa.
For Yolisa it was more than the Rabbi finding him fitting clothes but he mentored him educationally and even helped pay his fees at Abbots College in Claremont for his high school education.
“People with weight problems are prone to being hopeless because often they are a butt of jokes and ridicule so when Rabbi came into my life I grasped skills that made me a confident young man with a positive outlook on life,” he said.
Now almost ten years after he took a walk of faith with Rabbi, Yolisa, is a sharp young man who dreams of better and healthier life.
“I urge bigger people to take care of their lives by eating healthy food an exercising,” he said.
He is currently attending the South African Education Programme (SAEP) in a preparatory move to study transport and logistics at varsity next year.
If you know any plus-size men who struggles to get clothes that fit, contact Rabbi Serwator on 073 599 9111.