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Grade 10 student, Katelyn Siemens (left), and her home economics teacher, Marla Laskowski, in the Waldheim School. MCC photo by Chai Bouphaphanh

Grade 10 student, Katelyn Siemens (left), and her home economics teacher, Marla Laskowski, in the Waldheim School. MCC photo by Chai Bouphaphanh

Home ec students make the grade with blankets, diapers, gowns for babies in developing world

Gladys Terichow
01/09/2012

WALDHEIM, Sask. –Students in the school’s home economics classes here gain a deep sense of satisfaction when they sew baby gowns, cloth diapers and receiving blankets.

They are learning skills through sewing items that will be distributed by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to new mothers in refugee camps, hospitals, clinics and homes throughout the world.

“When the teacher talked about this project, I was surprised that younger people could do this,” said Eliza Urbina, Grade 10. “I heard about MCC and the baby kits in church but I thought it was just older people doing this and never thought that I could do it too.”

MCC infant care kits include a layette of two gowns, two undershirts, four cloth diapers, one receiving blanket, as well as soap, a hat, socks and safety pins. Last year, MCC distributed almost 14,000 kits in Haiti, Ukraine, Bosnia and many other countries.

This is the first year that teacher, Marla Laskowski, included the baby layettes as class sewing projects for Grade 8 and Grade 10 students. Grade 8 students sew only the blanket and diapers and Grade 10 students sew the blanket, diapers and gowns.

This sewing project, she said, is ideal for home economic classes because students learn basic hemming and seam finishing skills—two major components in their introductory sewing classes.

Students, she added, “are apt to try their best and take special care to do it neatly” because they know they the items they are sewing will be presented as special gifts to families in need.

As a teacher, she likes this project because there are no additional expenses and no time restrictions. All items are pre-cut and pre-packaged by volunteers in the MCC Saskatchewan Centre.

“We do what we can and when we can,” she said. “It’s a good project for students to work on when they have free time and when they have finished any other project early.”

Del Lennea, coordinator of MCC Saskatchewan’s material resource centre, said this partnership with the Waldheim School gives volunteers from different generations the opportunity to work together on a project that assists families experiencing poverty and hardships.

“It goes beyond the items they are sewing,” he said. “We simply provide the opportunity to educate young people about the importance of serving others. It is a way of developing and encouraging a culture of volunteerism.”

Katelyn Siemens, Grade 10, is enthusiastic about the opportunity to contribute to a meaningful volunteer activity. Most students sew one layette and one personal project to complete their course but Katelyn said she won’t sew a personal project this year. She would rather sew another layette for a MCC infant care kit.

“I want to make more of these,” she said. “It is fun making baby layettes—I am enjoying this but the main thing is that I’m helping families. I think it is an excellent idea to help people this way.”

Visit mcc.org/kits for more information about MCC newborn kits.

Gladys Terichow is a writer for MCC Canada