Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My latest gig

As I'm sure most of you know or have figured out by now, I love arts and crafts. Not the scrapbooky, kitchy cute kind of arts and crafts, but the useful, looks-like-they-could-be-store bought kind of arts and crafts. You also probably know that my real profession (no I'm not a trained hospitality coordinator, interior designer or professional blogger) is speech-pathology.

It's not very often that one has the opportunity to combine their hobby and their job, but I was lucky enough to be given that very opportunity through Common Hope. Beginning in January I took over as "teacher" of an Occupational Therapy class that was originally developed for young adults with moderate to severe cognitive and/or learning disabilities. Because Special Education in Guatemala is limited (it does not exist at the public level) often times students with special needs end up leaving school at a young age. This class at Common Hope was designed for students in which traditional education is no longer an option. The idea is to give the students support with concepts that are functional like problem solving skills, planning, measuring, organizing, sequencing and basic daily functional tasks like money management, social skills & personal hygiene. It sounds in depth, but really all of these "lessons" are slyly hidden in arts and crafts!

We meet two half days a week - sewing one day and making jewelry the other. Both activities allow the students to practice functional skills and make a product that is later sold to Common Hope visitors. In addition it is a great opportunity for developing their communication skills, provides them with a boost of self confidence and offers a bit of independence that they probably wouldn't have had otherwise.

Every few weeks we hold a sale for our vision teams and volunteers. A small portion of the proceeds go back into the class funds (for purchasing of more materials), but the majority goes home with the students so that they can help contribute to their family's income. Their families are quite good about letting the student make decisions on how to use his/her money. Most of them end up purchasing clothes for themselves which in turn helps out their parents. Students in the past have saved for big items like a bed.

While my class is small at the moment (only 3 or 4 students), it's great fun. I get to combine 2 things that I'm passionate about and use my Spanish (much more than I do in Hospitality).

Would you like to meet a couple of students? Let me introduce you!

This is Sonia.
While Sonia prefers the jewlery making class, she works really hard at sewing as well. Recently she used her earnings to help her mom purchase a new huipil (an indigenous women's blouse) since her mom is always spending the family's extra money on Sonia and her 2 sisters. Isn't that considerate?

Now, meet Nery.
Nery is a wiz in both classes, but really prefers the sewing. He is really good at following directions and paying attention to details. It is my dream that one day Nery will be given an opportunity to work as an apprentice to a tailor.

This is our workspace.
The colorful boards lining the walls are where we display our finished jewelry.

We really try hard to come up with ideas that are unique when it comes to our sewing class. Since textiles are so abundant here in Guatemala we want to offer something that is not seen everywhere else. Most of our products are make from traditional woven indigenous fabrics, since it's so beautiful & that's what the people normally prefer.

Check out some of our recent sewing projects.
Hot pads & microwavable heating pads filled with rice and cardamom.
Mmmm, they smell so good!

We're trying to be green with these fun coffee sleeves.

A spin on the ever popular reusable bag.

It even rolls up to a convenient portable size! These have been really popular.

The lastest vision team, nearly cleaned us right out, so we'll be back to work hard trying to beef up our inventory! We're always looking for unique, practical, fairly simple sewing projects, so if you have any ideas please send them our way!

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