Sewing School in Haiti

I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Haiti, where I met with Pastor Jacques Alexandre and agreed to re-establish a school in Port-au-Prince to teach women to sew.  The school was run out of the No Place Like Home orphanage for two years and graduated a class, but it was not continued after that.  We have decided to follow the basic model but add some improvements.

The school has three goals.  The first is to reach the women in the areas surrounding the churches in their network with the gospel of Christ.  The second is to empower women to help to support their families by developing a marketable skill.  The third is to teach women to read.

The previous school was supported by a group of women from a church in Texas.  They visited semi-annually, but hired a teacher to come twice a week throughout the year to teach the dressmaking skills necessary to pass the Haiti national sewing exam.  About forty women were involved in the sewing school, but when the two year period was over and it was time to take the exam, only nine of the women had the reading skills necessary.  Eight of them passed, but at least one who passed did not bother to get her diploma, as there was a ten dollar fee.  The students felt that the skills they learned were more valuable than the piece of paper.  We will facilitate the national exam if students are interested, but we are not making it a priority.

This time around, we will make literacy a priority.  Whether it is the ability to read an examination, read a pattern, or read a Bible, we feel that the ability to read is essential to our goals.  I have hired one of the graduates from the first class, Marie Lourdes, to be the sewing teacher, and Pastor Jacques is looking for a reading teacher.  Here is Marie Lourdes showing me she can use a rotary cutter to cut 2-1/2 inch strips.

Our school will begin April 2, and I hope to bring a team of women for a week long sewing school and Bible study in early May.

Here is how you can help.  I have had several offers of fabric, but contact me if you have fabric to donate.  We could also use all sorts of sewing notions: buttons, zippers, hooks and eyes, snaps, bias tape, trim, pins, needles, scissors, etc.  I am also looking for sewing machines in good working condition.  One of my tasks this week was to assess the condition of the machines they already had to see if they could be used.  I was able to get seven of them to work.  Some of the others (the ones in the picture with an x taped on them) have been designated “broken, use for parts.”  Others were missing pieces.

When the first class graduated, they were given a treadle sewing machine if they passed the national examination.  The women who could sew well but not read felt even worse about their lack of literacy when they did not receive a machine.  This time around we would like to give the women the opportunity to earn a machine by making items that we sell back in the states.  I have had a couple of businesses express an interest in marketing items they make in the future.

The first class of students learned to sew on an electric machine at the orphanage where they have a generator to use during daily power outages, but some students might not have access to electricity at home and those who do would not be able to use a machine when the power is out due to insufficient capacity.  When they were given a treadle machine, the students had to relearn how to sew, so we have decided that we need to have two treadle machines in the school in addition to several more electric machines.  I am looking for a group to raise funds for this need.

We would like to give each student a sewing kit including items such as pins, needles, measuring tape, scissors, seam ripper, etc. I can assemble these with items that I purchase at wholesale, and I will post the kits in my store on this site for anyone who would like to sponsor a sewing kit.  This could be done as a service project if a group would like to fundraise for it.

I will be putting together kits of pre-cut fabric for projects for our trip in May, and I would be willing to have student groups help me with this.

Join the team in May. I am still working out the exact dates, but if you would like to know more about joining the team in May, please contact me. A small team of 6-8 women who are committed Christians who can sew would be ideal, but even if sewing is not your strong suit we might have things you could do if you have a heart for ministry.  The cost would be about $700-800 per person including air fare from Fort Lauderdale, lodging, food, transportation in Haiti, airport tax, translators, and ministry expenses such as feeding the students lunch and baggage fees for supplies.  We would be staying at the PC Enterprises guest house, which has air conditioning and should have a swimming pool by May.  Here are some photos.

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