Sewing for God's Child Project
Pockets of sewers are springing up in Dickinson and throughout North Dakota in response to an underserved need from the God’s Child Project in Guatemala.
Through a project called “Sewing a Better World,” the sewers are making hygiene products, nicknamed “momma bags,” for girls reaching puberty. The goal is to prevent girls from missing school because they don’t have any.
“We will do that by providing them with pads, soap and underwear, along with education on women’s health topics,” said Hannah Tollefsrud, community engagement specialist and office manager at the God’s Child Project office in Bismarck. “By staying in school and furthering their education, our hopes are that these young girls can excel in their future careers and help their families break out of the cycle of poverty.”
The products are manufactured out of flannel, batting, Pul waterproof fabric and Velcro that may be washed and used over.
Up to five flannel pads are placed in a bag, along with panties, washcloth, soap and hand sanitizer. Sewing will continue until God’s Child representatives from North Dakota deliver the bags in March.
“Simply, the girls don’t have the same education on women’s health as we do. Sometimes, they will use crumpled newspapers and other unsanitary practices at home. They miss out in their school work in school and get left behind,” Tollefsrud said.
Additional bags will be given to the midwives for their birthing kits needed for sanitary birthing conditions.
As stated on a website, the God’s Child Project was founded in 1991 by Patrick Atkinson of Bismarck. It’s motto is ‘Breaking the bitter chains of poverty through education, housing and healthcare.”
Social workers identify children from desperately poor families to enroll at the Dreamer Center -- the elementary school -- located on the campus of Asociacion Nuestros Ahijados. Without supports, these children could be on the streets, not receiving education, healthcare or love. Many of these children would be begging for food, clothing and money -- doing whatever is necessary to surprive.
The Scheel Center, funded by Bob Scheel of Fargo is God’s Child’s secondary education school for middle school and high-school aged students. It teaches trades that graduates can use to enter the workforce. It also offers an accelerated elementary program for kids taken from the streets who may have been involved in gangs, drugs or prostitution.
“We will be distributing the bags in March to the young girls in the higher grade levels at the Dreamer Center and to all the girls at The Scheel Center,” Tollefsrud said.
The “Sewing a Better World” was initiated by a group of church ladies in Maine a year ago.
“They are passionate about sewing pads, and they got the women in North Dakota involved by making a challenge, saying how many can you make? Last year, those ladies went to Guatemala to distribute the bags and educate the young women on how to use them. North Dakota supporters got together to see what they could do.”
Any sewing group is welcome to participate. Groups are springing up from Beach to Fargo.
In March, God’s Child representatives will launch a study to see if the hygiene products actually have an impact on the girls staying in school.
“We’ll see what the attendance rate of girls is since last year,” Tollefsrud said.
Sewing groups --- including the St. John’s Quilters, the Catholic Community Quilters and Quilters on the Prairie -- have responded to Sue Jackson’s appeal to help sew. Sewers from the Dickinson community also have started meeting weekly at Trinity High School to make the mamma bags.
Anyone can help with the project.
“I don’t sew, but I can cut,” Jackson said. “Just by word of mouth, we had 15 volunteers last week -- it’s like it’s snowballing. Patrick has said people want to help, but they don’t know how. Volunteers may never go to Guatemala, but what a difference they are making in the lives of girls -- trying to keep them in school. The kids who go to the Dreamer Center have the best chance. At the Scheel Center, they are teaching them a trade -- plumbing, electrical, computers, sewing -- so these kids age 12 to 15 don’t end up on the streets.”
Hundreds of mamma bags have been produced already in Dickinson, with a couple more weeks remaining until they are shipped to Guatemala.
Even after the challenge is over, the need will continue.
“There’s thousands of girls -- even if we hand out 400 bags, we’re just scratching the surface,” Jackson said.
The pattern is available on the God’s Child website (www.godschild.org) and Facebook page, (The God’s Child Project), or they may contact Tollefsrud at 701-323-0296.
God’s Child also is looking for sponsors to help with expenses, such as purchase of the panties, washcloths and soap.
The God’s Child Project is participating in Giving Hearts Day on Feb. 8. To pledge your support for the children and families, make a donation online or by check. Visit givingheartsday.org on Feb. 8 and search God’s Child Project. To donate by check, date for Feb. 8, 2018 with Giving Hearts Day in the subject line. Send check to God’s Child Project, P.O. Box 1844, Bismarck, N.D. 58502.