Our team of four women arrived in Port-au-Prince on Sunday afternoon and spent the evening sorting through the bags of fabric that friends had donated and made into kits of sewing projects. The plan for day one of our week with the sewing school was to unpack all of the sewing machines and set them up, then pass out the sewing kits and teach the women to use a rotary cutter and sew a stitch and flip placemat.
When the women arrived at the orphanage Monday morning, we soon realized that there were more than just the twenty-five women who had originally enrolled, and we only had twenty-five sewing kits to distribute. We decided to go ahead and distribute them to the first twenty-five women to enroll, and if the additional women could be accommodated, we would send additional kits. After some awkwardness in passing out kits and finding that some of the first to enroll did not get one, we moved on to our first project.
I started with an interpreter and showed eight of the women how to cut strips with a rotary cutter while the other team members helped the rest of the students set up and thread their sewing machines. We had eight of the same model machine, but the rest of the machines were donated used machines of various ages and were all different. It soon became apparent that the students were just guessing how to thread the machines without understanding how they worked, and most were threaded incorrectly and were making a huge mess on the back sides of their projects and in the bobbin case. Fortunately, our translators were very competent and Ronald took over demonstrating the cutting while I went from machine to machine fixing and re-threading them.
It was clear that four team members and three interpreters were not enough to teach thirty-five women (including the two teachers) how to thread a sewing machine and sew a straight seam. Mayson, an interpreter from a previous trip who I was friends with on Facebook, asked if he could join us after Reggie had already lined up interpreters. His father is a tailor and he has sewn all his life, so I asked him to join us starting on Tuesday.
Raylyn had the great idea of drawing lines on interfacing and having the students try to sew a straight line and a curved line on that before graduating to their actual project, and she worked with them on that while I tried to keep all of the machines running.
Following an exhausting morning of dripping sweat (hence the ninja turtle style headband), we sent Reggie out to buy box lunches for the students and translators, then had our first session of the Beth Moore Bible study on Esther.
On day two, Mayson joined us and we set up the two treadle machines as well as fifteen electric machines. It was wonderful to have someone with experience with the treadle machines to teach the women to wind bobbins and thread the machine properly. Kathy and Kay took half of the women upstairs to teach them to crochet while Raylyn and I helped those who hadn’t finished their placemat.
The second day of the Bible study was the most spirited discussion I have ever witnessed, and we all enjoyed it immensely. A discussion of Vashti’s refusal to appear before the king turned into a shouting match about whether a woman should always obey her husband. What if he is drunk? What if he had beaten her that morning?
On Wednesday we taught the women to make bibs and burp cloths, and the students who were finishing their placemat on Tuesday learned how to crochet. On Thursday Kay showed the students how to make necklaces from old tee shirts while I demonstrated how to make a pillow case. Kathy taught the Bible study on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday we allowed the students to finish up any projects they needed the machines for while I taught English paper piecing on the upstairs porch. Kay gave a wrap up of the Bible study, and we said our goodbyes. We were mobbed by students who wanted pictures with us and several of them wanted to give us gifts. I felt bad that we had to refuse the pineapples one of them wanted to give us because we couldn’t get them through customs. We were all sorry to leave Haiti, and are looking forward to our next trip in November.