Author Archives: Karen

Days for Girls Work Day 1/20/18

Saturday, January 20th is the next workday for Days For Girls.  We are meeting from 9 to 4 at St. Mary on the Lake Catholic Church in Plymouth.  Directions here   
 
We have activities for everyone even if sewing is not your “thing”.  Lunch and coffee/water are provided; extra snacks or sides are welcome.  Come for an hour or two or for the day.
What to bring:
·  Sewing Machine and/or serger
·  Basic sewing supplies (polyester thread please)
·  Large scissors marked with your name (may need for some of our non-sewers to use in cutting out bags and diaper kits)
·  Donations for the Days For Girls kits
·  Dark/bright cotton fabric for shields **see note below
·  Bright/light fabric for bags **
·  Dark/bright flannels for the liners **same fabric print guidelines 
·  Washcloths
·  Travel soaps
·  Girls underwear size 10-14
·  Zip-Lock 1 gallon sized bags (Not the slide lock)
There will be an opportunity to hear an update on the work our chapter has done and also to provide a monetary donation if you feel led to do so.
 
See you soon.  Please forward this info to others who might like to help.
 
**Use good quality 100% cotton woven fabric similar to quilter’s cotton. No knits, flannels, corduroy, or home dec fabric.
·  Pick colorful stain-busting fabrics, preferably botanicals, geometrics and batiks. Prints preferred.
·  Fabrics and thread should be medium to dark in color to disguise stains
·  Some prints are offensive or illegal in some communities. Prints with people, animals, faces and figures cannot be sent to Muslim communities. NO camouflage fabrics as these are illegal in many countries. Fabrics with food, bugs, reptiles, guns, knives, culture-specific themes as well as girly-glam should be avoided. Bugs, reptiles and animals are predators in some areas; fabrics including these are uncomfortable for the girls to wear and use. Butterflies are OK. 

Morpheus Concert 3/4/2017

Saturday, March 4, 2017 at 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Hamel Community Center, 3200 Mill St, Medina, MN 55340

You are invited to a concert featuring the band, Morpheus! Rock to music by Blood, Sweat & Tears, Steppenwolf, Santana, Chicago, The Eagles, The Doors and others as the 12-member group performs hits from some of music’s greatest bands.

Admission: $15 in advance. Use this ticket link to make your tax-deductible donation through GiveMN. Refreshments will be available; wine/beer for a $5 cash donation at the event. Bring your friends!

Hamel/Medina Community Center just off Hamel Rd, a half mile west of Hwy MN-55 and Old Rockford Rd. (NOT Medina Ballroom but the Community Center at 3200 Mill Street, Hamel, MN 55340).

HHW Needs Your Help!

Read Leslee’s post below to find out how you can help women’s business in Haiti by organizing your own fabric cutting party! For a $20 donation per person, HHW will provide patterns and fabric, and send your completed kits to Haiti.

I’m Back from Haiti and Need Your Help!
by Leslee Jaeger

This trip to Haiti was much different in many ways from my previous travels. We stayed in CapHaitian rather than traveling to Limbe, we taught Haitian providers about cervical cancer screening rather than performing surgery, we rode local tap-taps for transportation, we “camped out” in a partially finished house and slept on mattresses on the roof because it was unseasonably hot (95 degrees) and we attempted to market reusable diapers and menstrual pads to start a business for our microfinance women at Helping Haiti Work.

Sewing Center

Sewing Center

We learned much about how business works in Haiti and the Haitian medical providers learned about the causes of cervical cancer, how to screen for the disease and methods of treatment. More about the cervical cancer program in another post. This is what I learned.

1. Haitian women work hard and maintain long hours at their market stalls in order to clear $3 – $4 a day.

2. Haitian women are skeptical about new products, especially when marketed by white women. A side-by-side comparison to the local product (diaper or menstrual pad) using water was much more effective than talking.

3. Haitian women are born to bargain when negotiating price.

4. Most Haitian women have not seen an electric sewing machine in action and all want to try to operate it, usually going way too fast.

5. Haitian women are quick to learn a new task because many of them are illiterate or only partially literate and learn by doing.

After multiple conversations with women, assessing the current market price of our product and estimating the cost of supplies to make a reusable diaper or menstrual pad kit, we have realized that the profit margin is too narrow to make this program fully sustainable. But that does not mean that we have given up. Put 5 white women together on a roof with a bottle of wine at 9 pm and much brainstorming happens.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:
We have created the concept of CUTTING PARTIES or PINOT AND PADS. For $20 a person, you collect a group of your friends together and for 2-3 hours cut out diapers and menstrual pad kits. We will supply you with patterns and fabric purchased thru the $20 donation. No sewing needed as the unfinished kits will be sent to Haiti and the women will purchase them for a small cost, construct the item and market it for a profit. This employs many of the ideas from my previous post When Helping Hurts. We are working to create a culture of self-sufficiency rather than a culture of dependency. We are also in the process of making a video that you can download from YouTube which gives a visual education in what we are trying to accomplish.

The next shipment of kits will be traveling to Haiti in mid June. The Haitian women are depending on us to help them help themselves. Please contact me at leslee@helpinghaitiwork.org if you are interested in hosting an event.

 

Seamstresses without Borders

Haiti Sewing Projects

Sewing Projects

You may have heard of Doctors Without Borders or Engineers Without Borders, but you have probably not heard of Seamstresses Without Borders, as we have just started the first branch in Limbe and Ranquitte, Haiti. Ellen Schreder and Abbie Ahner traveled to Haiti this week to work with Haitian women who are interested in a microfinance loan thru Helping Haiti Work, but do not have a pre-existing business. We have been collecting fabric over the past few months and 6 – 50 pound suitcases followed the women on their journey over potholed and washed out roads to the rural village of Ranquitte. Ellen and Abbie are helping women with basic sewing skills develop a business plan for constructing and marketing the items that they sew. We will be continuing to encourage the women to use the reusable menstrual pads that I have written about previously, in addition to reusable diapers and mens and womens underwear.

The board of Helping Haiti Work has had numerous discussions about how we can make this business sustainable but also profitable for the women. Too many projects that are started in the developing world falter and break down when funds to sustain the enterprise dry up. Using donated fabric and supplies, purchasing remnants of fabric and using used flannel sheets has allowed us to keep the cost of each item low enough so that a profit can still be made when the women sell the items in the local market. Unfortunately, flannel fabric is difficult to find in Haiti so most of the fabric will need to be brought in by volunteers.

The first day of the project went beyond our expectations. The sight of an electric sewing machine (the norm in Haiti is a treadle machine as electricity is variable) generated much excitement when women saw it in operation the first time. During a teaching session about business models, women brainstormed new ideas building on the sewing program. One woman wants a loan so that she can purchase fabric in Cap-Haitian and then sell to the sewers so that they can focus on sewing. Women wanted to teach their sons and daughters to sew to increase production. Although cooking is considered women’s work in Haiti, many of the tailors are men.

Free handouts to those who are poor are easy and make the giver feel fortunate and superior. The recipient, however, does not benefit to the same degree and is left waiting for the next handout. Programs such as this are much more difficult to implement, involve more time on everyone’s part but create a sustainable business that will be in place long after the Americans have left. Haitian women also benefit by realizing that they have the power within themselves to make a better life for their family and their community. They no longer need to rely on handouts and can replicate this same business in neighboring communities.

Upcoming Trip to Haiti

Mothers waiting for screenings

Mothers waiting for screenings

Three of us will be traveling to Haiti next week to work at Mama Baby Haiti, a birthing center in Cap Haitian that employs Haitian trained nurse midwives. They have received a grant from Dining for Women which allows them to expand their program to include well woman care. A community health worker will be trained to educate area women about sexually transmitted disease, contraception and cervical cancer screening. The goal of our trip is to train midwives, physicians and nurses in the technique of cervical cancer screening with VIA(visual inspection with acetic acid). 285,000 women die each year of cervical cancer, 85% of them in the developing world.   Read more

When Helping Hurts

by Leslee Jaeger

Leslee teaching at Limbe hospital

Leslee and nurses teaching at Limbe hospital

My April 2015 trip to Haiti will mark the 10th year since I first journeyed to the island in 2006. Just as my parenting methods have evolved over the past 24 years, so have my views and methods of “helping” others, both here and abroad. For the first time, the April trip will involve much more teaching and not as much doing, as we work to train midwives in methods of cervical cancer screening and treatment. More information about this venture can be found here.

Haiti is an example of how too much “helping” by outsiders (usually Americans) can be a disadvantage. Too many projects have been started or promised and never finished… Read more

News from Haiti

Jeff and Leslee Jaeger, and Tim Neary are on volunteer medical mission and sending updates on Helping Haiti Work projects. Leslee stresses the importance of your donations to promote women’s businesses in northern Haiti:

3 years ago we started a cervical cancer screening program. Yesterday it became very apparent why this education and screening is necessary. We diagnosed 3 women with end stage cervical cancer. One of these women will probably die in a few weeks, another is only 34 years old and has 5 children that depend on her. Even in the US, these women have such advanced disease that they would only be eligible for hospice type treatment. The screening test is simple, taking only 5 minutes and costing 50 cents in supplies. Precancerous changes can be caught early and easily treated with a 90% cure rate. Unfortunately, all of these women have had their disease for many years and will die of a disease that is the number one cause of cancer death for women in the developing world. We are working to expand our program, teaching local physicians and nurses how to screen and treat. Later today 2 of our nurses will visit a local church and provide education to a women’s group. When we visit our micofinance recipients this week, we encourage them to bring their friends for screening and to spread the word about the preventive services available. The microfinance women are leaders in their community and are respected for their business knowledge. We hope they will also be listened to when they spread the word about cervical cancer. By funding more loans, we will be able to involve more women in not only businesses, but also to serve a role models for their communities. 

This HHW client has a successful business buying cast-off clothing from the USA-- She buys it in bulk, sorts and washes it, and sells it in the local market.

This HHW client has a successful business buying cast-off clothing from the USA– She buys it in bulk, sorts and washes it, and sells it in the local market.

Happy Mother’s Day to the Unknown Moms

by Leslee Jaeger
Open Leslee’s blog

sisters

There are 2 mothers in this world who will go unrecognized on Sunday. One lives in Korea and one in China. They gave birth to my 13 and 15 year old daughters and have not seen them since days after their birth. Their stories are presumably very different. In Korea, most children that are placed for adoption are born to single mothers. Public acceptance of unwed mothers is low and the family often hides the pregnant woman from the outside world. Adoption paperwork is completed  in the first few days after birth, as was the case with our daughter. If the woman later marries, she often does not inform her husband of the first child and her family never talks about the child.  This is only one of the many reasons that searching for birth parents can be frustrating.

The reasons that children in China are placed for adoption has changed over the last few years with the relaxing of the one child policy and the increase in economic prosperity of the people.  When our daughter was born in 2000, the one child policy allowed for a second child if the first child was a girl. We do not know her exact circumstances, but she was probably the second daughter of a rural family who needed a son to continue to farm the land.  Her mother would not have had much input into her abandonment (placing children for adoption in China is illegal) as this is often the decision of the husband and mother-in-law.

I am not judging either of these women. If in the same circumstances, I can’t say that I would have made a different decision. I would love to reach out to each of them and communicate how much their daughters are loved and flourishing in their current environments. However, this  needs to be a personal decision by each of my daughters. So much of their early story was out of their control that this is one important choice that they can control. They are aware of my feelings about openness in adoption, but have heard enough stories about family searches that have not ended well, that they have put any ideas about searching into the future.

Currently, open adoption is very common in the United States and preferred by both adoptive parents and birth parents. International adoption is traditionally closed, with adoptive parents receiving very little information about the circumstances of the birth family. This is slowly starting to change as the world is getting smaller. More adoptive families are traveling to their child’s country of origin and meeting extended family members. Social service agencies are facilitating communication between families after the adoption is completed. I can only see this as a positive as it helps a child have a history of less “unknowns” regarding the circumstances of their early years.

As much as I love my daughters and cannot imagine life without them in our crazy family, I still sometimes wish that they could have grown up within their birth countries.  They will both be strong woman and they may have been able to change some of the strong social mores in Korea and China that led to their adoption stories. Individualism is a strong force in America, unlike Asia where more of the focus is on the family. My daughters were sacrificed for the overall betterment of their birth family. They were received in American to benefit an individuals desire.

In my work in the developing world, I have seen some families make even harder decisions.  When there is not enough food for everyone, which child will need to go hungry?  When there is only limited funds for school, which children will benefit from an education?  If a child is sick, does it warrent the expense of a medical visit? These are choices most of us cannot imagine making once, let daily or weekly. These are the moms that most deserve our thoughts on Sunday if we have a quiet moment. On Sunday,  I will be thinking of the stories I have heard both in Africa and Haiti and giving thanks to a special mom in Korea and China.

mom in field