A Sewing Circle of Love for Malawi

ContributedSOUTHBURY — On the second and fourth Saturdays of each month, a group of dedicated ladies meets in Southbury to make clothes for a small African country called Malawi. They call themselves “The Sewing Circle of Love” and have devoted a great deal of their free time to this ministry, making dresses for girls and shorts for boys. This tiny country located in sub-Saharan Africa has captured the heart of a small church in the Bennett Square shopping center in Southbury called Calvary Chapel.

The Sewing Circle of Love, started by Carol Eastwood and Chris McSherry, began in April 2009 with what was a simple recycling center donation of four boxes of fabric. Carol had basic sewing skills and announced to the church  that they needed volunteers to make clothes. McSherry stepped forward with her sewing skills and a surplus of available space at her home and the two women began the ministry which has since grown into a group of about twelve dedicated ladies who make clothes for children in Malawi.

In the sewing circle, everyone has a purpose. One willing elderly woman is unable to do much more than hold the fabric that another irons. One woman can sew, but only straight seams.  This is not a problem for Eastwood – she had that woman sew a type of dress that only has one straight seam. The clothing has to be simple – it cannot have zippers or buttons, as even something as basic as a button that cannot be mended in the bush will render a garment useless, so the pants and dresses tend to be made with drawstrings and elastic waistbands.

Watching the sewing circle is like watching many parts of one body; each part is distinctly different, yet all work together in unison – one counts, one packs, one irons, etc. Everyone comes to do what they can and all work together toward the goal of making clothes for the children. By August 2009, they had fashioned 80 dresses and 36 pairs of shorts. This year, productivity is up – as of April 2010, they have 200 dresses and 100 pairs of shorts.

The sewing circle drafted a letter to solicit donations from Jo Ann Fabrics and Wal-Mart, but they haven’t needed any donations yet. They are very busy with the supply line of fabric they currently have and there is a woman in Stratford who wants to donate numerous bolts of fabric, but not before the ministry can find room for it!

In a world of bureaucracy and short-lived governments, there are logistical challenges to getting the clothing to their intended destination; they literally need to be hand delivered. Simply shipping the garments leaves too much room for chance and greed along the supply route.  Any number of things can happen to the shipment, from being hijacked to having it wait on a dock, held up in procedures and unforeseen necessary documentation.  For this reason, the clothing is taken to Malawi personally on mission trips by Epicenter Solutions, a non-profit relief organization founded by Calvary Chapel of Southbury, led by Pastor John Eastwood.

Epicenter Solutions will be leaving once again for Malawi this summer on its twelfth trip in the last five years.  Eastwood, with a small group of dedicated parishioners, will be taking clothes, Bibles and water purification systems to Malawi in their ongoing goal of feeding and clothing over 5,000 children in Malawi.

If you are interested in participating in this worthwhile cause, please join the sewing circle on the second or fourth Saturday of the month at Calvary Chapel of Southbury, 134 Main Street South in the Bennett Square shopping center.  You can contact the church at 203-267-5441 for more information.

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