Saturday, March 15, 2008

One Small Way

Last year, my friend Christine gave me a book, Through the Eye of the Storm by Cholene Espinoza. She buys them by the case and gives them away because all the proceeds go to building a community education center to serve the Katrina survivors in Mississippi. The book is written by a phenomenal pilot who witnessed the devastation from the hurricane and was moved to action to help rebuild a community. Along the way she makes many discoveries about herself. The faith and strength of this book continues with me each day. Quite frankly, I’m in awe of these women. Amidst the overwhelming feeling of despair we all feel about Katrina, they are making a difference in one community.

Last year at my Episcopal church, I was talking in my usual way. I found myself suggesting that it would be great to have a coffee house. We should fling wide the doors of our parish and invite the community to perform. We had never had a coffee house at the church nor had I ever organized one, but I love music and thought that everyone would have a good time.

Ideas flew around and we decided to collect donations for Richmond, South Africa, a community living in poverty. Three women from our parish who work in medical fields were going to travel to meet this community and hear their needs. All the better if my fun little coffee house can help someone. We wound up raising $1,800 and collecting a few hundred dollars worth of items that the women would take on the plane with them to make sure they were not stolen during delivery, which happens. The idea was to have a fund so that when they came back with a clear understanding of what they needed, we could help.

In life, I’m just the inspiration and the organizer. I do events in my sleep. I haven’t spoken to the women since they returned two weeks ago. Last week one gave me a small African instrument because of the coffee house, but that has been the extent of my contact.

Some of the items we collected were for a sewing business. We gave them supplies so that they could sew and sell. Many international programs have been established to help people move toward self sufficiency in developing nations.

At their presentation this week, I was listening to the stories about the people, the conditions, and the facilities. The sewing shop was not great and had substandard machines, but the women were dedicated and trying to earn a living. They need three sewing machines and a press. The women from my church told them to buy them.

They made this announcement in the middle of the presentation, amid pictures that showed smiling women displaying their work, a report that they don’t have a bathroom, and the fact that the shop is next to a very busy liqueur store.

They are going to use the money to buy sewing machines. I was overwhelmed to know that far away in the desert in South Africa women are going to be able to sew to earn a livelihood with machines bought with the money from my coffee house idea. It was a powerful moment. In a tiny, tiny way I understand how Cholene Espinoza feels reaching out to help. The world is filled with problems and it’s not much help, but we will make a difference to these women and their families.

What should they sew that will sell here in the United States? They make pillows and placemats. Someone suggested baby bibs. What ideas do you have?

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