The majority of tailors in Haiti are men. You frequently see them sewing in the doorways of buildings surrounded by a group of men playing cards. For that reason, finding women who are experienced seamstresses was a bit difficult in the beginning. We had to be patient while less experienced seamstresses worked diligently to improve. Then we could finally approve their sewing skills as proficient and pay them for the products that were created. Now the sewing tables have been turned and our seamstresses are calling on their husbands and sons to help with the final kit assembly when a large order is being completed. The men are only too happy to help as the income that is being generated is making a large difference for their families.
Yvette and her husband have 5 children and live in Ranquitte, Haiti, a small village located in the mountains south of Cap Haitian. Prior to our Days for Girls sewing program, Yvette had the skills of a talented seamstress but was unable to find the materials or market for any of her projects. Our products of reusable menstrual pad kits and reusable diapers have provided her with both materials and an income to help to support her family and keep her children in school. Yvette has taken this project one step further in that she is training teenage girls in her neighborhood to sew so that we will have extra hands when large orders are placed. Unfortunately, Yvette was very sick earlier this year for a few months. Her 15 year old son stepped up and worked on sewing the reusable menstrual pad kits so that the family could continue to benefit from the income.
As Hurricane Irma threatened the northern coast of Haiti, many of our seamstresses were busy finishing an order of 158 menstrual pad kits to be delivered in October as well as an order for 20 large tote bags that required an industrial size machine for stitching the canvas type fabric. The sewing center is near completion, which will allow for a central location to collect the finished products as well as store the fabric. Ellen Schroeder was able to connect with the local Haitian Rotary group, who have agreed to be part of our rotary grant application. Unfortunately, due to the weather and flooding in some areas, the seamstresses from the two locations were not able to meet in CapHaitian and see the progress on the sewing center.
While we are busy building the sewing center in Cap Haitian, our seamstresses and tailor have been busy continuing to sew in cramped facilities. They just completed an order for 65 kits that will be distributed in July and will spend the remainder of the hot Haitian summer constructing 150 kits that are to be delivered in September. We just have the roof to finish on the sewing center but work has slowed while we try to raise the remaining funds. Consider a summertime donation so that we can start sewing in the new center in the fall!
Two of our seamstresses, one from Limbe and one from Ranquitte, traveled to the southern end of the Haiti to work with occupational students from St Vincent’s in Port au Prince and nursing students in Leogane, teaching menstrual hygiene and construction of the reusable menstrual pads. This trip was made possible thru a grant from the Medical University of South Carolina. Both seamstresses had never made the 7 hour bus ride to Port au Prince and were excited for the adventure. When the bus broke down at the top of a mountain ridge, the trip became even more of an adventure. Another bus had to make the journey from Port au Prince to rescue them, delaying their arrival by 5 hours. Rather than traveling immediately to Leogane, they spent the night in Port au Prince and left early the next morning.
The students from Haiti and South Carolina were eager to get started; the sewing machines were set up and construction begun. The Haitian students are already expert seamstresses, so it took little time for them to learn the basic sewing techniques. The remainder of the time over the two days was spent in conversation about marketing of the kits, menstrual health hygiene and human rights. These same topics had been taught to our seamstresses only three weeks earlier by Abbie Fliegel, a public health nurse in Bloomington. Thank you to Days for Girls for the wonderful flip chart that makes this teaching easier.
60 completed kits were purchased thru a grant and will be distributed to nursing students to determine the acceptability of reusable menstrual pad kits in young women who have previously been using disposable pads. Not only does this money supply our seamstresses with an income, but it also helps us to tailor our marketing efforts in the future. An additional 40 incomplete kits were delivered and will be costructed by the Leogane students as part of their sewing skills class. Thank you again to the Medical University of South Carolina for reaching out to our organization to make this opportunity possible. Our seamstresses and their interpreter made an uneventful journey home only a day before the hurricane landed on the southwestern corner of Haiti and then traveled up the US coast to South Carolina.
This past week the seamstresses from both sewing centers, Limbe and Ranquitte, met in Cap Haitian to learn sewing machine repair, new sewing techniques, education about menstrual hygiene/health and human rights. Ellen Schreder and Abbie Fliegel, both from MN, organized this workshop so that the women could not only learn new skills but also to teach them that the need for reusable menstrual pad kits was larger than their small sewing program. Each woman has been asked to teach 2 other Haitian women what she has learned, so that we can spread basic health information more rapidly and in a way that will reach both literate and illiterate women. Some of these women have never had the chance to travel outside of their small villages. An even greater journey awaits two of the seamstresses at the end of the month when they travel to Leogone on the Haitian peninsula to pass on the education to occupational therapy students and nurses.
Two of our seamstresses, one from Ranquitte and another from Limbe, will be traveling to SE Haiti this fall to deliver 100 reusable menstrual pad kits to Haitian nursing students as well as providing a day of instruction in menstrual hygiene. This will help our seamstresses to realize that our efforts extend beyond the borders of their villages and give them confidence in providing instruction. One of the women who is most eager to learn more about this program has limb deficiencies that have not limited her ability to become an accomplished seamstress.
Our seamstresses have been busy this summer filling an order for 100 menstrual pads that will be delivered to a nursing school in Port au Prince. We have also been working with browneyeddolls.com to fill an order for 200 dresses to fit the gorgeous dolls that are sold on their website. Plans are being finalized to move into our own space later this year so that the women are able to secure their machines and sew 5 days a week. If you know of a mission team that is interested in distributing menstrual pad kits, please contact us in advance so that we can provide you with Haitian constructed kits and menstrual hygiene information.
The first large order for 150 diapers was successfully filled by our seamstresses in Limbe using materials that had been purchased and pre-cut in Minnesota. We are still trying to resource flannel from within Haiti, which would simplify the process. The women were very excited to receive reimbursement for their efforts. The diapers were purchased by Hands Up for Haiti, and they in turn will distribute them to families in their clinics. Construction of the reusable menstrual pads is on-going and currently being marketed by a midwife at Mama Baby Haiti. As part of our goal to increase education, the seamstresses in Limbe recently provided both written and oral information regarding menstruation and hygiene to a local group of 12 and 13 year old girls. Reusable menstrual pad kits were given to the girls and they will provide follow up in 6 months.
You can help us to purchase more fabric for this program as well as funding our traditional microfinance loans by attending our upcoming concert on March 12th, featuring the fabulous band Morpheus. Click on the picture at right that is found on our homepage in order to purchase tickets.