We were peers. Collaborators. Equals.
Tereze, Mary Sunshine (I know. Best name.) and Seraphina greeted me with a traditional triple-cheek-touch and a whisper of “I love you” on a warm African day with a light breeze and a whole lot of excitement.
From our first meeting, we were just sisters. Excited together. Nervous together. Brought together over a common passion—sewing.
I have loved sewing since day one of Clothing Construction 101 in college. In another life, I created dozens of tutorials on my blog, even a 30-day sewing 101 course. In recent years, I even taught sewing to adorably awkward high school girls at our local high school.
As I confided excitedly to our travel team earlier this week, “Y’all, sewing is my jam!”
Sewing, as it turns out, is also Tereza, Mary Sunshine, and Seraphina’s “jam”.
You see how we were just instant sisters?
My history is so different from theirs. I live in America. I have a two-story home and a car and a laptop for pete’s sake. My church has cushioned pews and I brush my teeth with tap water. I toil over half a dozen fantastic schooling options for my kids.
These new friends of mine live in Rwanda. They have 1-room homes, and their own two feet. Their church has a dirt floor and I guess I don’t even know what their dental hygiene situation is. They toil over whether or not it is possible to send their children to school.
But we had sewing in common. We also had motherhood and loss in common. We shared our desires for purposeful work and the protection of our families.
You guys, I share a common Savior with these women. (I seriously sat back at one point, looked at them, and imagined Christ thinking of them, and thinking of me, and dying for us each on the cross—all of us in the same need of his redeeming blood. All of us sharing a hope in his resurrection.)
Which is what made made our day so special.
Tereze, Mary Sunshine and Seraphina are seamstresses. They went to sewing school on scholarship a few years ago, and now work and run their own sewing co-op with 14 women in Kigali, Rwanda. Mary Sunshine is adorably pregnant with her second baby, Seraphina is the most experienced seamstress, and Teresa is a little older—a client of IJM (International Justice Mission). When her husband died 8 years ago, her mother-in-law stole her home and land (something very common in sub-saharan Africa because it is such an agrarian society) and left Teresa and her children homeless and unable to attend school. Just last Friday (yes, 8 years later), IJM was able to win her case for her. She finally has her land back. This woman is a fighter—a quiet fighter. Man, do I love her.
Our job was to divide into assigned teams, and for each team to design an item for the upcoming Noonday #StyleForJustice line. I was partnered with this lovely trio, as well as my new and already dear friend, Jan Haugen, who traveled with us from Washington D.C. to share this experience with us. (Jan is the incredible-in-her-own-right wife of Gary Haugen, founder of IJM and author of Good News About Injustice and The Locust Effect). I think we got the best team, and the project assignment of all: design and construct a large tote from this big pile of gorgeous African fabrics.
We got to work right away. We had an interpreter for our group, but our pointing and nodding at the style sheets and samples was just as good for us. “You like this big bow?” nod! “How about an outside pocket?” shake head “could we make the handle this way?” nod! nod!
You guys, we came alive! We celebrated each other’s “cleverness” (this compliment made them smile so wide!). I taught them little tricks for pattern making while they weighed in on sewing techniques that work well in their co-op. I told them one way to do something, and they showed me an even better way. We laughed, high-fived, learned new skills and came up with something pretty killer that we are all so stinking proud of!
When we got back the van to leave at the end of the day, my American friends told me how fun it was to watch our team at work. Jennie said I just came alive with those girls—that it was really something special to watch.
I left our pattern and fabric choices in the most capable hands yesterday afternoon. And I will return today to puzzle through the construction and trouble-shooting. We’ll even hit the market together to make sure our fabric picks are available for a great big order.
Because a great big order is what gives this co-op projects! It’s what gives these women purposeful work, dignity, and a living wage that ensures their children will go to school and their families are no longer surviving, but thriving.
I wish x1000 I could show you our amazing finished bag! But we are all under strict mum until they are revealed August 7th at the Noonday Nationwide Trunk Show. We had an incredible videographer follow us through this process and he’s putting together a super fun video of everyone’s projects and process to be shown that day. Everyone who attends a trunk show will have the opportunity to vote for the top two completed projects to be produced in the January @StyleForJustice line with Noonday Collection.
BUT, I can show you this happy video from day 1 that Kelle put together!
If you’d like to learn more about what Noonday Collection and IJM are doing to create opportunity, protect and empower people around the globe and to be more involved in this mission—or if you want to know more about hosting one of these big-reveal truck shows in your own home on August 7—please click below.