An unsung heroine

Again – I am reporting Polly’s activity.  She is doing so much here in Lima.  Check her blog for her perspective and reflections – well worth it!

Jean at Nazareno

Every week Jean goes up to Mision Nazareno, Pamplona Alta.  It is a half hour bus ride up into another of Lima’s “Pueblos Jovenes.”  These areas of Lima have been homes to refugees from rural Peru for decades.  In these “young towns” the poverty rate is huge and people live on miniscule incomes, earned any way they can.    Pamplona Alta is one of these areas.  They are high poverty, gritty, messy parts of Lima.  Into these communities the Anglican Church has been bringing its message of Christian love and transformation.

With Pat Blanchard - SAMS-GB

Nazareno is a mission church run by an English missionary from SAMS/CMS – Deacon Pat Blanchard. Her ministry here has been in two areas.  The first is among women and their children.  The second, which Polly and I want to write about later is a ministry among the disabled, who have  traditionally been shunned by some church agencies.

In order to bring some economic stability, Pat has developed a sewing ministry called Arpillera among some of the women.  Jean, with whom we work at the Cathedral in Lima, volunteers with these amazing women.  Three afternoons a week she travels there and spends time with the women, assisting, reading, praying, counseling and then marketing the arpillera products.  I wrote about Pat’s church last year.  The picture to the left is from that visit.

Jean is a very active member of our Cathedral expatriate community.  She has lived here for ages, loves Jesus Christ and serves the Anglican community in mission.  She is truly an unsung heroine.

Polly went with Jean yesterday to visit Nazareno – to meet the women and to see how arpillera is done.  Arpillera are three dimensional applique collages that illustrate community life or religious themes.  They consist often of minature dolls sewn into appliqued scenes.  Some are to adorn everyday objects.  Some are wall hangings.  I have  several stoles that depict scenes and themes of the Scriptures.

These stoles are works of art and I use them all the time – the green one is actually at the Cathedral as I have been wearing it during Epiphany.  I had another that depicted the whole life of Christ and that is adorning the neck of the Rev. Marnie Kaetor who pastors St. Andrew’s Church in Turners Falls in Western Massachusetts – one of our wonderful supporting congregations.

The money from this arpillera goes to the women who make the pieces.  Polly visited the home of a woman whose earnings paid for a new tile floor in her home.  This woman was a refugee from the rain forest area and now has a new life in Pamplona Alta, here in Lima.  This income provides a home and dignity to this wonderful woman. Another woman is financing law school for her son.  I need to say that most of the “product” goes through a church in Texas.  Write to Cindy (threadsofhope@gmail.com).  They in turn sends the money back to Peru.

Thanks Polly and Jean for allowing me to report on what God is doing.  God is so great and so good – all the time!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “An unsung heroine

  1. Karen Staege

    Will you bring some of these women’s handwork to New Wineskins? They are so beautiful.

    • I may not be able to as most if not all goes to Texas. New Wineskins – I am told – does not allow the sale of goods. I can try and order something for you Karen – let me know what you might want.
      Blessings – Ian

  2. I received this from Jean this morning

    HOW THE ARPILLERA PROJECT BEGAN

    Some fifteen years ago, Don Juan of an NGO, founded a sewing group. He guaranteed to buy their work and sell it abroad. When I met them 2 years later, they were all sinking into the Slough of Despond, because Don Juan was paying them about 3 dollars a picture, and was ordering subjects they would rather forget, those reflecting the “reality” of their lives: land invasions where all is grey/beige sand and cardboard, landslides, traffic accidents, protest marches……. One day I found them designing larger scenes depicting family violence: children cowering in the corner while the neighbours peeped through the window. Don Juan wanted 5 from each lady in the group.

    The ladies were so depressed they were considering disbanding. I offered to help them sell, but could think of no-one who would want a traffic accident on the wall, and so encouraged them to do pictures of the places they came from in Peru, Noah´s arks, etc, anything brightly coloured.

    The explosion of ideas and change in style and quality was outstanding, together with a marked increase in the confidence and abilities of each lady. We moved from the NGO hut to the ladies´ own houses, where we could also have a cup of tea and discuss things in more privacy. Most family members are now involved in the work. Husbands out of work or with a little time to spare are now expert sewers, and most of the children are also making their own contribution, even if it is only 4 year-olds passing a needle or the right coloured thread.

    As part of each meeting, we usually do some studying. This may concern a Biblical passage or some topic may be taken up for a series. We have done a course on self-esteem and are now working through a book on bringing up difficult children, which leads to a great deal of interesting discussion, and has changed their way of thinking. Several have attended Alpha courses over the past year, and are now members of our church. We have now changed our venue and meet in the Anglican church hall in the area where the ladies live, a much more comfortable, light and spacious place, instead of the cramped conditions we had before. It means that we have the church downstairs where we can go for individual counselling when necessary.

    There are now 2 more groups, of ten and eight ladies respectively, who have been taught by members of the original group. One of these groups consists only of members of the church in whose hall we now work. The project is making an enormous difference to their lives. Alejandrina has 7 children, and the family was living in rough rooms made mostly of rush matting and had no proper toilet facilities. She now has a beautiful tiled bathroom with shower and toilet, which is her pride and joy, and several more rooms. Rosa and Edith have each built a brick house with a proper roof. They have all made some improvements to their housing, in some cases being able to buy a small plot where they can build their own house, instead of sharing with sometimes several other families.

    The income has also helped with the education of their children. All school materials, and uniforms, have to be bought, and this can mean failing a course if the materials are not provided. Several of the older children have been able to do university or technical training, which would otherwise have been impossible: for example, one young man has completed his 6th and final year of basic law studies, a girl has graduated as a nurse and another as a nursing technician, another lad is finishing studying to be a mechanic etc.

    More people are drawn in, who do not attend the actual group sessions, some making the small baskets or the fruits and vegetables, the dolls etc. and so these are often bought, spreading the work further afield. Often the ladies will tack the whole design together and then pass it on to an “embroiderer” who will sew round everything and then hand it back to be completed. This gives us a much wider outreach, which is the intention of the project.

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