A sewing class to teach skills for a living…

This is a story from Durfee Burtner of Heirloom Quilting in Brookville, PA about her recent trip to teach a quilting class in Rwanda, Africa. The Blank Quilting Corp. donated fabrics for Durfee to take and their combined donations contributed to making kits for the students in the class. The class is for students to learn sewing skills well enough to eventually provide an income for themselves and their families. The class took place at the Sewing Center of Urukundo Home for Children in South Province, Rwanda. Here is Durfee’s story about her trip…

I took lots of supplies for the class: fabric, batting, rotary cutters, mats, thread, patterns (donated by Kay Buffington), two different kinds of rulers, machine and hand needles, etc.

We made it to Rwanda Sunday night and were greeted at the airport by many people. Mama Arlene, our hostess, came with a homemade trailer for the luggage. Thank heavens! It’s about a 1-1/2 hour trip to Gitarama, but it seemed like five.

Monday, when I got to the sewing center, Olive, my translator (nobody spoke English) introduced me to the girls and two men.  There were twenty of them in total (we had only brought kits enough for 13). It ended up that they had to share supplies and in some cases two students made one quilt. They didn’t mind though. They were learning something new and seemed to love it. I understood that they had walked miles to get to class. Most of the girls brought their lunches and stayed the afternoon.  Some also came on their holiday to work on their quilts also.

I asked for an iron and they brought out what I believe was the first electric iron ever made. It was so ancient. I asked if they had any more irons and they brought out a metal iron with a lid that opened, filled with hot charcoal. I almost fainted. The next day we brought three irons from Urukundo. I knew they had electricity (most of the time), but the sewing machines they used were treadle machines, which were not dependent on the undependable electricity. There was one large table which we used for cutting and one large table for ironing. The class had one pair of good scissors and two seam rippers.

The most difficult thing to teach was probably fractions. The girls weren’t familiar with them and I tried my hardest to explain decimal equivalents with a diagram. I left a chart with them for future use.

All in all, I was really pleased with the results. Almost all got their quilts done. They were so proud. Mama Arlene said the quilts will be given to the women that come to Urukundo to give birth.

I am so blessed to have gone to Rwanda for the third time. I love the people there. They are so joyful, so thankful – it’s incredible. I thank God for this opportunity. And I also thank The Blank Quilting Corp. for their very generous donation.

Below are pictures of the trip.  Please enjoy and notice how happy all the people are thanks to Durfee’s amazing efforts to share her wealth of knowledge.