The BOMEN Sewing Training Center and Workshop
Nancy, Nina, and I will be hosted by the Bondeko Mennonite Church in the Masina area of Kinshasa, DR Congo, during most of our visit in May. We will be staying in African homes for nine of our days and did I mention that French is the language of DR Congo? Did I mention that I know very little French?!
We will be meeting with Congolese women theologians and the organizers of the BOMEN Sewing Training Center and Workshop. BOMEN is a project of the Bondeko Mennonite Church to train women heads of households, teenage mothers, and unemployed young women in sewing, dressmaking, and tailoring. It is a microfinance training program but at this point, only a small number of women have participated because they only have two sewing machines are available.
BOMEN seeks help to buy additional sewing machines, tables and chairs, supplies, and rent for a larger building for the center. The leaders hope to train a hundred women in basic sewing skills for an 18-month program. BOMEN will help the trainees find employment and establish a production workshop to start young women in their careers.
Some Congo Cloth Connection (CCC) funds have already purchased on industrial strength sewing machine and sewing supplies. I will be taking additional supplies and sewing notions with me for the sewing center. Also, CCC funds will be used to purchase two long work tables and other supplies for the workshop in Kinshasa where the women will make clothes to sell. The profits from these sales will purchase additional sewing and embroidery machines for other women’s group in other parts of the DR Congo.
I see some of my “call” for this trip is to sew alongside the women, give ideas for additional sewing projects, and note the additional specific needs of the sewing center. Perhaps, though, on a deeper level, my call is to bear witness to the stories I might hear from the women, especially those who have moved from the dangerous eastern part of Congo to the capital of Kinshasa. I also will carry with me the spirits of my grandmother Lois and great-grandmother Daisy, both seamstresses, who would have enthusiastically supported this trip.