Club Programme Action lead Christine Corless updates us on the activity of our thriving and incredibly productive sewing bee whose impressive output has made a real and measurable difference to the lives of girls in Africa and Nepal.
Who can be part of our Sewing Bee?
We’re not all experts by any stretch of the imagination so all members are welcome to join us from beginners to advanced. As well as knitting, machine sewing and hand sewing, we need people to cut out so there is a job for everybody. We’ve been meeting outside for the last 2-3 months and are meeting in groups of six in order to stay within the CV-19 guidelines.
What do we sew, knit, and crochet?
The range continues to expand and our creations currently include:
- Days for Girls kits (reusable sanitary protection kits)
- Dresses for girls
- Shorts for boys
- Teddies for various charities, mainly in Africa, and also for The Buddy Bag Foundation
- Blankets and shawls for overseas projects
- Children’s jumpers, including school jumpers, for children in Sierra Leone and Zambia
- Uniform washing bags for nurses, and ear defenders and bereavement hearts for the NHS during the Covid 19 pandemic
- Bags for school books for schoolchildren in Zambia
Days for Girls Kits
The vision of Days for Girls is that”Every girl and woman in the world should have ready feasible access to quality sustainable hygiene and health education by 2022″.
Like Soroptimists, they believe that every girl in the world deserves education, safety and dignity. Days for Girls devised a kit design based on the feedback of women. Every washable feminine hygiene kit gives back up to 6 months of living in just 3 years of use – that’s the life of each kit with proper care. This translates to 180 days of education, health, safety and dignity for each girl over 3 years.
Through Judy, our contact in the Baraka charity in Zambia, we heard about the importance of these sanitary packs to the girls in the schools they support. Without sanitary supplies, the girls use leaves, newspaper, etc and miss days at school each month.
We set about making some of these kits. As with the dresses, we use donated material so there is no financial cost to this work, just time. Each kit has a Drawstring bag so a girl can carry her bag to school. It’s important that it is comfortable to carry and looks good and will also last because she will be using it for up to 3 years so it needs to be strong but attractive. It contains 2 shields which will hold the liners in place. The shields are leak-proof through use of a moisture proof lining – we have used shower curtains for this part. The bright colours camouflage staining. The final part is 7 liners, made out of flannelette so that they’re absorbent. These are simple squares with 2 layers so they dry fast and can be washed with very little water. The absorbent liners unfold to look like a washcloth, which allows women to wash and dry them outside in the sun without causing embarrassment.
Judy wrote: “Dear, dear Lichfield Soroptimists! These are the girls from the Maamba safe house, to whom we gave the sanitary packs. They’re very impressive young ladies: gifted and talented doesn’t do them justice. All vulnerable to pressure from families to stay at home and raise children but they all want to continue their education. So we set up a safe house, away from their home villages, where they stay at night and weekends and they go to school in Maamba during the day. MANY thanks. all your work was really appreciated.” Read more about the Maamba safe house.
We have now made over 250 kits (and are well on the way to making quite a few more) and so have enabled the girls to attend an additional 45,000 days in school – which definitely ties in with our aims of education for girls.
Since we set up our Sewing Bee around seven years ago, we have made approximately 900 dresses and they have been sent to a number of countries: Kenya, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, India, Zambia, Sierra Leone and the Philippines. The dresses empower the girls with confidence and enable them to have dignity and also improve their self esteem.
We have recently identified a new charity which is keen to have some of our dresses, Kids Club Kampala.
This charity was set up around 10 years ago by two young women, Olivia and Corrie. They had spent time in Uganda on a gap year and decided they wanted to do more for the children in the slums. The charity works to help vulnerable children in Uganda
- Their mission is to provide for both their immediate needs and strengthen their futures through educating, feeding, protecting and skilling
- Their vision is to transform children’s lives, empower communities and reduce poverty through Kampala’s slums.
It’s interesting to note that like Les Amis, the charity we work with in Burkina Faso, they run tailoring classes which empower the women to earn a better living both for themselves and their families, and also acquire business knowledge to start small businesses to sustain themselves.
Like all the other charities we work with, they send any physical donations to Uganda with the volunteers who work with the charity so, as a result of Covid, we haven’t been able to send anything there yet but have quite a collection for when we can! Olivia will be our speaker at our Business Meeting in January 2021 so we’ll have the opportunity to hear first-hand about the work being done in Uganda.
Sewing Bee is a very sociable – and as you can see – productive group – if you’d like to join in – just get in touch!