January 16, 2013

Peace Through Pieces: A Quilting Ministry in Africa

Our last posting introduced the Stone Soup Quilting Ministry of the North Seattle Friends Church in Washington.  This Quaker ministry makes and provides over 100 quilts a year to patients of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and their families.  The ministry's purpose is to demonstrate care and provide comfort to those suffering from cancer and other serious diseases.

Patty Federighi is Director of Quilting Ministries for the North Seattle Friends.  Yes, Ministries.  Plural.  While corresponding with Patty about their Stone Soup activities, she mentioned another quilting ministry conducted by the North Seattle Friends - this one in Africa.

Expanding on the peace and healing that both quilt makers and recipients had experienced through the work of the Stone Soup Quilting Ministry, Patty began a program called Peace Through Pieces that is being conducted with Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services (THARS) in Burundi.  The purpose of this quilting ministry is to "work with their women's support groups to add one more tool of trauma healing to their tool kit."

Central Africa has been plagued by inter-ethnic group conflict for decades, producing traumatic events in the lives of approximately one out of five people in the area.  THARS was established to help heal the trauma experienced by individuals and to facilitate reconciliation of the ethnic groups so they may work together for a better future.  Patty says:  "We started working with THARS about six years ago after an initial visit to Burundi to see if the women were interested in learning quilt making and to find out if the materials and supplies needed for quilt making were available in this extremely poor country.  Both questions were answered with a resounding 'Yes!'"

Students display their quilts at the first Peace Through Pieces training
 in Burundi, December 2006.  Photograph courtesy of Patty Federighi and the 
North Seattle Friends Quilting Ministries.

The THARS organization selected two people each from seven support groups and two women from Burundi Yearly Meeting to gather with teachers from the North Seattle Friends.  These teachers were Carolann Palmer, a well-known quilt maker, teacher, and quilt book author, and Patty.  Carolann and Patty each took one group of eight students and provided a week-long workshop teaching simple quilt making from start to finish.

Julienne and Gasiride sew binding by hand at a workshop in Burundi.  
Photograph courtesy of Patty Federighi and the North Seattle 
Friends Quilting Ministries.

The students initially trained by Carolann and Patty took their newly learned skills back to their respective support groups and taught their friends what they had learned.  According to Patty, "These groups, made up of mostly poor, mostly victims of the conflicts, many rape victims, mostly uneducated women, experienced creativity and success and were soon the envy of the villages they live in."

Patty has returned to Burundi four times since the first workshop six years ago and has directed two additional week-long workshops (one in Burundi and one in Congo), and one ten-day workshop in Burundi. Through these workshops, the students have expanded on the skills learned in simple quilt making.  They are now equipped to make smaller crafts that can be sold in the region to help make the program self-sufficient. These items include tote bags, aprons, pot holders, school uniforms, girls' dresses, women's handbags, school back packs, table linens, and more.  The women have also selected other work projects they can do together to improve their lives.  These include gardening, goat-raising, basket weaving, and soap making.

Support group members work together on a quilt at the THARS training
center near Gitega, Burundi, Octobert 2009.  Photograph courtesty of
Patty Federighi and the North Seattle Friends Quilting Ministries.

Quilters learn machine-piecing at a training at the Friends Peace Center
near Uvira, Democratic Republic of the Congo, October 2009.  Photograph
by Osborn Bulimu, THARS Intern.  Courtesy of Patty Federighi.

Veraste and Claudette work together at the second quilting training near
 Gitega, Burundi. Photograph courtesy of Patty Federighi and the North Seattle
Friends Quilting Ministries.

Quilt show in Burundi, June 2008.  Photograph courtesy of Patty Federighi
and the North Seattle Friends Quilting Ministries.

For more information about THARS, go to http://www.THARS.org.  If you want to know more about the Peace Through Pieces quilting ministry, contact Patty Federighi at pattyf@northseattlefriends.org.

Textual material and photographs provided by Patty Federighi.

(c)  Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2013.


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