By MARGARET FORD
Food, clothing and shelter are the basic necessities for all people, and are usually the focus when aid is needed in an impoverished country. But there are other needs, too, that are often forgotten. Something simple like the lack of hygiene products can have a huge impact on people in developing nations.
In many countries, it is difficult for girls to have access to feminine hygiene pads, which often means they miss a week of school every month. On Saturday, Gateway Church will host “Pad Palooza: Sew for Haiti,” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., to produce cotton, reusable pads that will be sent to girls in Haiti.
Any woman interested in helping is welcome to join in the effort. Experienced sewers are asked to bring their sewing machines and basic sewing supplies such as scissors, thread and pins. The material for the pads and patterns will be provided. Inexperienced sewers can help, too, just by bringing a sharp pair of scissors and Sharpie markers and helping cut the cloth.
The event is being organized by Gateway’s Sew Quilt Share ministry, which regularly meets for fellowship and to work on projects that can “make a difference in the community and the world.” Previous projects have included making laundry bags for the City Mission and quilts for the Women’s Resource Center.
“When we heard about this project, girls in other countries forced to drop out of school for a week every month because they don’t have feminine products, it really spoke to all of us,” said Sandra Tietje, one of the organizers for Saturday’s event.
“If they can’t get an education, they really don’t have a hope of having a better life,” Tietje said.
Mary Claire Petro and Sue Briggs are also coordinating the event.
Tietje learned about the Pad Palooza project through one of her sewing circles. The project, she said, originated with a women’s group from St. John Mennonite Church in Bluffton. The Bluffton group has been making the pads for some time, in response to a need expressed by Mission Possible, a Findlay-based nonprofit that operates Christian schools and training centers in Haiti.
Tietje is an avid sewer who writes a sewing blog called Sew in Peace. She said she posted the pattern needed to make the pads and instructions for sewing them on the blog, along with news about Saturday’s sewing day. She was not prepared for the response she received.
“Women from all over the United States have been sending us pads. We’ve received about 1,600 of them through the mail. I got a letter from a 17-year-old in Detroit who read the story on the blog and she inspired a sewing circle in Detroit and they sent me a box of close to 200 from them,” Tietje said.
Another woman, a college student in Michigan who lives in Massachusetts, got her sewing circle involved and they sent over 500 pads.
“I’ve never been a part of anything that’s really been so rewarding,” Tietje said.
Tietje said whatever is made at Gateway Saturday will be given to St. John Mennonite Church, which will send them to Haiti or deliver them through mission visits. She said Pam Macke, a nurse who leads teams of medical volunteers that visit Haiti every February, has distributed over 5,000 of the pads herself. Macke will be at Gateway Saturday and will have photos and testimonies from girls who have been helped.
Tietje said Mission Possible’s vision is “not to be a hand-out ministry but to be a hand up.” At Mission Possible schools, girls attend classes where basic hygiene is taught. Girls are given 10 of the colorful pads in kits which also contain two bars of soap, three pairs of underwear, ibuprofen tablets, safety pins to attach the pads to their underwear, and instructions for how to wash and reuse the pads.
The effort makes a big difference, Tietje said.
“I can’t imagine being so poor, using leaves and stuffing out of mattresses and unsanitary things” which can cause illness and infection in the girls, she said.
“I know it’s unpleasant to think about these things, but if we can make a difference for these young girls one by one, when they become part of the workforce and become mothers, it’s going to make a huge impact,” she said.
The goal for Saturday is to cut and sew 1,000 pads.
Tietje knows that Saturday is going to be a busy day in the area, with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the Oktoberfest in Findlay, and Bluffton’s Fall Festival.
“We are trusting the Lord to ordain the events of the day,” she said. “We’re excited for the potential of connecting with the women that show up that day.”
Tietje said pre-registration is necessary by today so that enough tables and power cords can be set up for the sewers. Volunteers will help bring sewing machines inside. To register, visit gatewayepc.org/ and click on the “Events” tab on the right-hand side of the page, then click on “Pad Palooza.”
Sewers can choose to work all day, or come to the morning session from 10 a.m. to noon, or the afternoon session from noon to 4 p.m. Sewers who will work through the day should bring a sack lunch.
Women who cannot attend Saturday’s sewing day can find the pattern on Tietje’s blog at sewinpeace.blogspot.com/ and make them on their own time. Finished pads can be brought to the church at 9555 County Road 9, to Mission Possible at 124 W. Front St., or to the Christian Book and Gift Store, 438 Tiffin Ave.
Donations of fabric and supplies for the kits are also appreciated. One yard of 100 percent cotton flannel will make 10 feminine cloths and support one student for a year. Also accepted are size 12-14 girls’ hipster underwear and Ivory bar soap.
Gateway Church can be contacted at 419-423-5947.
Ford: 419-427-8477 Send an E-mail to margaretford
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