A Change in Plans

I woke up the other day not being able to easily get out of bed or walk across the room. I’ve twisted and turned my poor back and can barely walk much less sit in a plane for 15 hours. I kept waiting to feel better, went to see the osteopath and iced and heated the affected area diligently but yesterday morning I decided, after lots of angst, that trying to go to Uganda was not going to be possible right now. It feels like I’m letting lots of people down though every single reply to my emails about this change of plans has been answered with understanding and concern. We will reschedule once I feel better.

I believe in life lessons. There are probably more here than I now understand but I’m thinking this has something to do with letting go of control and “going with the flow.” Always that MoonCatcher lesson to remember.

Let me tell you what has been happening though. We’ve had a bunch of MoonBees and some presentations and people from all over the country are reaching out to us, asking to be part of this project. In Uganda Phoebe, our partner extraordinaire, is going to go to Kasese, the forgotten area in Uganda where we have begun to send our kits.

We are gearing up for our visit to Malawi in April and working with a Canadian group that has asked us to provide kits for 150 students in a school near Mtunthama, Malawi where we have our sewing guild. 

Completed kits ready to go.

Completed kits ready to go.

March 28 is our annual Birthday Bash at Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady. Once again we will collect disposable pads and tampons for people in our own community. We have a link on Amazon for people who can’t come to the party and want to contribute. I’ve been receiving boxes of supplies from people all over the country. My back porch is beginning to look like the Rite Aid isle filled with menstrual products. I’m delighted.

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If anyone reading this knows of anyone going to Uganda or Kenya in the next month or so and can carry some of our supplies, we’d appreciate that. Meanwhile I’ll be taking it slowly and doing MoonCatcher work from the couch for a while.

 

February Musings

I’ve got a good fire blazing in the wood stove and a big mug of squash soup on the table next to me. I’m in Newville, the little hamlet where I grew up and where my family still owns the 200+ year old house. It’s where I go when I want a little time to myself and quiet to do jobs that take full attention. I’m doing lots of paperwork this time.

The MoonCatcher Project has had an extremely busy January. I counted  ten events - MoonBees and presentations - last month and my calendar shows no sign of letting up.

The MoonBee at Union College in January attracted over 70 students and volunteers.

The MoonBee at Union College in January attracted over 70 students and volunteers.

Our wonderful volunteers making MoonCatcher Kits at St. Sophia’s Church in January.

Our wonderful volunteers making MoonCatcher Kits at St. Sophia’s Church in January.

Churches, synagogues, schools, quilting clubs and lots of other organizations are reaching out to support us. I’ve even heard from a little non-profit in Australia that is starting to do MoonBees down-under. Packages of unsewn kit parts were mailed this week to Connecticut and California and a Doctor from Nicaragua wants to talk to us next week. It amazes me that all these people find us and want to do something to help.

I’m constantly reminded that people like to have hands on work to do when volunteering. There is something so real and primal about working with our hands - being able to touch and feel the process. People come up to me all the time to say thank you. I always feel like it should be the other way around.

While all of this activity is going on, and while we prepare for our annual Birthday Bash and a Summer movie night, I am also getting ready for my winter trips to Africa.

In March I’ll go to Uganda and Kenya with my dear friend Maureen and in April I head to Malawi with my buddies, Charlotte, Lon and Helen. Lon and Helen are Rotarians and are helping us to apply for Rotary International funding for our work in Uganda and India. I’m thrilled that I’ll be able to show them The MoonCatcher Project in Malawi where we have an operational sewing guild and many schools that we serve. Charlotte has been coming to MoonBees for years and will teach some art classes as well as help The MoonCatcher Project, Malawi.

It’s morning! I spent the night in my little red cabin. The creek is high after the warmer weather and loudly rushes pass my windows. Huge icy plates have dammed the other side of the waterway and it looks like I’ve landed on the moon. How different from the red soil and hot climate of Uganda where I’ll be in a few weeks.

My little cabin in Newville.

My little cabin in Newville.

This year we are going to spend some time in a new area of Uganda where service work is seldom done but Phoebe tells us the need is great (Kasese District ). We will also get representatives from each sewing guild together to discuss their work, how we can better serve them and find out what is their capacity for growth. This is our fifth year since establishing The MoonCatcher Project there. It’s time to ask more questions and work in closer collaboration with our tailors and teachers. We’ll spend a day and a half together working and playing.

We’ll visit some friends in villages where we already work and spend some time in Kenya with our seamstress, Jackie. We are also hoping to visit some schools there and help teach and distribute kits in Uganda and Kenya.

My next blog entry will be from Uganda. I’ll send photos and try to write most days.

 

The New Year - 2019

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I know it’s cold out, but sunlight is spilling in over my dining room table as I write this. I can pretend that it isn’t really just 25 degrees. The holidays are over and that’s always bitter sweet. I loved having my children home and my sister Gussie here too and I loved pausing for a while.

We had this year’s first board meeting last week. There are financial reports to reconcile and more thank you notes to write but it still felt like putting 2018 to bed and gearing up for this new year.

After looking at all we accomplished and the fact that we surpassed our fundraising goals we made some changes in how we do things.

Two of our board members were reinstated for three-year terms and new officers were elected. I stepped off the board. We’ve been working towards this for a while now as I want to put all of my energy towards being the director of The MoonCatcher Project and know that wearing one hat is a better model for this. Linda Wistar has become president and John Doyle will serve as treasurer. Ginger Etrz will continue as our beloved secretary. Pisie Hochheim, Agnes Pala-Bukahala and Laura Kikuchi will continue as Board Members. I feel really good about all of this.  I know that this board will always stay true to the mission while moving this project forward.

I’m starting to organize our Uganda and Kenya trip. I’ve reached out to Phoebe to find out what she feels will be most useful to her. She wants us to spend 3-4 days in a very troubled area of Uganda that is often overlooked by mission groups. We have been making kits for them for several months now and she has promised them that we’d visit. It’s important for us to make these trips as often as we do in order to try to understand what is needed and what improvements we can make. I’m always amazed at what we learn.

In April we head for Malawi and I’ve already bought my ticket. I will travel with a wonderful smart young woman, Charlotte Mack,  who has lots of enthusiasm for our MoonCatcher work and will be a great help to the project. Two others may go as well but I haven’t gotten the final word on that.

My New Year’s resolutions are about reaching more girls and educating more people about The MoonCatcher Project’s mission. I’ve got some new countries in mind and want to expand in the countries that we are already in. I want to expand our disposable supply collections to help women and girls in our community as well. And I want to continue to partner with other organizations working to change the lives of girls. I am so grateful to everyone who helps us.

Happy New Year to all.

 

Dining for Dollars 2018

The hands-on work of Dining for Dollars, our annual lasagna dinner fundraiser, is finished.

 Last Monday, my high school classmate and longtime dear friend, MaryAnn helped me shop at Restaurant Depot in Albany for lasagna supplies. She came all the way from Northampton, MA to do this. I texted her the night before to tell her to wear a warm coat, hat and gloves. We spend a fair amount of time in the cooler choosing our cheeses and veggies and believe me it’s North Pole cold in there. Santa has nothing on us.

 Then on Wednesday evening we delivered 600 lasagna meals that we’d been working on all day Tuesday and Wednesday. More than 50 volunteers gathered to pull this off. Unbelievable! Every year they show up to cook, pack, bake, drive and clean up.

D4$ cooks get started preparing lasagna for 600.

D4$ cooks get started preparing lasagna for 600.

Thursday I put boxes of containers and left over tote bags away and Friday my husband Michael and I scoured the Unitarian kitchen from top to bottom. It was left looking pretty darn good but we wanted to be sure that the church didn’t have any reason not to welcome us next year.

 Michael made every one of the 12 oven racks sparkle. Really! They went from black to silver. I never would have had the patience but he kept at it for hours and they look amazing.

600 Dinners ready for delivery or pick-up.

600 Dinners ready for delivery or pick-up.

Tomorrow all 52 handwritten thank you notes will be put in the mail and the checks that have come in so far will go to the bank.

Now we wait for the rest of the envelopes to come in and when we hear from everyone we’ll send half the money to NOLA and the other half will go to The MoonCatcher Project.

In today’s mail: 41 envelopes!

In today’s mail: 41 envelopes!

I love this event. Even when there is a glitch something magical happens. The woman who didn’t get her lasagna in Saratoga called to say “no worries. I made do. There are people in the world who have nothing. This is such a first world problem”. And then she wished me a happy holiday. Wow!

I love the chaos of it as well as the attention to detail. I love trying to make it work better every year and incorporating everyone’s “how can we make it better” ideas. The feeling on the two days of cooking is always friendly and has that vibe of pulling together. Coming from a family of ten siblings this feels like home to me and makes me smile all day long.

To those of you who helped, know that I am forever grateful. You are some of the best people I know. And to everyone, Merry Holidays!

 

Reflections on George H.W. Bush

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In July 2017, I was surprised to receive a phone call from the Points of Light Foundation announcing that I had been nominated as a Point of Light.  After going through a very rigorous application project, I was awarded this honor.

Then, I had only a vague idea of what this meant, but I did recall that Girls Inc. here in Schenectady had earned that distinction.

This helped me understand the concept that George H.W. Bush had developed when he was president, to honor organizations and people who volunteer to do good in the world. I was amazed that I would be among them.

 I must acknowledge that I didn’t vote for George H.W. Bush. However, he has earned my sincere admiration since leaving the White House.

I respected how he and Bill Clinton often worked together to help victims of natural disasters here and abroad. Having run 16 volunteer rebuilding trips to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, I realized that President Bush was another partner in helping others. I particularly respected how these two past presidents were cooperating in a generous, bipartisan spirit to do good, together.

I woke up this morning recognizing I wanted to say something about this remarkable man. He supported citizenship in an idealistic but practical way. He supported the Peace Corps and foreign aid in ways to foster the aspirations of so many around the world.

In these helpful actions, and in establishing the Thousand Points of Light, I appreciate that he was a decent and kind man, a gentleman.  Rest in Peace President Bush.

 

December Morning Reflections

The MoonCatcher Project has been busy gearing up for our end of the year campaign and Dining for Dollars fundraiser. I love the energy and excitement of it all but relish the time each morning when I can just sit and reflect a little.

I usually wake up around 5:30. I pad downstairs, make coffee and at this time of year sit under a cozy quilt to write for twenty or thirty minutes. I’ve been doing this for 26 years - starting the day putting down onto paper, longhand, what’s cluttering up my head. This helps me start the day with a some clarity and focus. I then meditate for a few minutes and then  I’m as ready as I’m going to be to jump into whatever the day holds.

We have had a full calendar of MoonBees lately and more are booked into February. I am so grateful that board member and dear friend Ginger has taken on the role of “calendar girl”. She communicates with churches, synagogues, community centers, schools, and individuals to schedule MoonBees and presentations. Having that work load taken off my plate has freed me up to pay attention to many other things. I wasn’t aware of how much time this was taking until I didn’t have to do it anymore. Thank you dear Ginger.

Because of the additional MoonBees we have been able to send more kits to more countries. Swaziland has been added to our list and we have sent more kits to Haiti and Ghana too.

Sewers from around the country continue to ask for packages of unsewn parts to make at home or with their schools or churches so I’ve been bundling up parcels to take to the post office. I love how this project has spread throughout the United States to people who have become friends though I’ve never seen or talked to them. Email connects us.

The MoonCatcher Project annual report has been emailed to about 1,500 people and snail-mailed to hundreds more. It’s amazing to read what we have been able to accomplish this year. When I’m in the throws of making things happen I lose track of all the work this project does - with the help of hundreds of volunteers. The report puts all the information in one place and amazes me when I read it. All our board members, tailors in other countries and volunteers from across the globe are making this beautiful connection with girls throughout the world and helping to change their lives. Thank you everyone.

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India Reflections

It’s been twelve days since we returned from India. The jet lag has disappeared and I’m beginning to really appreciate what we were able to accomplish.

The Shashi Kiran Charitable Trust, in Delhi, is partnering with us to move The MoonCatcher Project (MCP) forward in India. We are so grateful for their help as we negotiate this new country. We truly couldn’t do this without them. Thank you to this great organization!

I miss the wonderful tailors that we found in India. These lovely women are such skilled seamstresses. It was a treat working together and sharing The MoonCatcher Project story. And an added pleasure for me was having industrial machines to work on since this is what I grew up with. My father must be smiling somewhere watching this unfold.

The MoonCatcher Team in Delhi.

The MoonCatcher Team in Delhi.

We set up a beautiful, light and airy sewing space with these women. They are making two hundred kits every week, exceeding our projected goal of one hundred seventy-five. Wow! Their work is beautiful. Each woman pays careful attention to quality control and they all check each other’s work so that nothing will leave the room less than perfect. This makes me smile as I am a stickler for quality. I want each girl to receive a kit that is beautifully made and reflects the respect MCP has for her.

While in India, we were able to visit two schools to teach our class and more are being contacted to visit in December by our representative in India. The girls of India are receptive and eager to hear about menstrual management and reproductive health. We laughed with them as we discussed this delicate subject and tried to make it a comfortable topic. Being with girls is always my favorite part of this work.

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We have a new survey to help us track the number of girls served and the retention of girls in each school. We are hoping that in-house teachers will be willing to help answer questions that may arise for the students and that they will be ongoing support for the students.

A power point presentation for The School of Social Work was well received with over sixty students both male and female in the room. They asked thoughtful questions and took lots of photos. Several students stepped up to say they would like to help. This is great as we’ll eventually need more help teaching our menstrual management and reproductive health curriculum to our school girls.

During our stay, we spent a lot of time sourcing fabrics, approving notions, and ordering necessities such as Tyvek.  We worked hard to try to understand this beautiful, interesting culture and are excited about  working together to help girls stay in school.

Now that we’re home I realize that the hard work of fundraising begins. This is an ambitious project that we’ve started. Making 200 kits a week, paying rent, utilities and labor are constant expenses. We’ve had help getting our new project started but will need to bring in more funds to keep it going. As our year-end fundraising campaign begins we will be counting on our donors to help us continue the work of this project. I can’t tell you how grateful I always am for everyone’s help.  Thank you all so very much!

Last Day In India: Heading home

The flight home is something like 17 hours so already I am having trouble remembering our last day in Delhi.

I do remember that we spent the day with our incredible sewers. Cording and shoelaces arrived so we were able to teach the final steps of kit assembly and that felt good. I love completion as any of my siblings would tell you and agree. I’m bringing 600 laces home with me for MoonBees.

Mid-afternoon Sushma’s (one of the cutters) little son and daughter came into the sewing room with brightly wrapped packages, one for each of us. It will be Diwali next week and these were early surprises to honor the holiday. What a sweet thing to do. Later at chai time we gave out boxes of sweets and after hugs all around left to pick up our bags and head to the airport. Both of us felt sad to be leaving our new dear friends. Anju, the new supervisor, will take over now. 

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We traveled through the streets of Delhi loaded down with suitcases. The air is especially bad at this time of year due to burning of the crops. We could see fires in the distance with black smoke billowing into the sky. One afternoon I was sure it was going to rain. You know the way the sky goes dark and the light gets grey yellow and then it just dumps? The thing is that the rain part doesn’t happen, but the color changes do. I worry for this city but read that new laws are being passed to encourage the end of crop burning and other polluting practices. I hope this works. I worry for all those school children who are breathing this air and all the people of Delhi  whose health is being compromised.

One last walk down the street where our new cooperative is located.

One last walk down the street where our new cooperative is located.

We are weary but as I sit here in Boston, ready to take a nap, I feel like we accomplished a lot. 

 We have a sewing cooperative in India!

 

Day 14: I think we found a supervisor

Nothing like the eleventh hour to put the finishing touches on this project. Anju a lovely 21-year-old showed up right at 9:00 and worked all day with us. I think we probably exhausted her with all the information that we threw at her. I forget that most of the world doesn’t talk “sewing”. Having been brought up in a dress factory words like bolts, yardage, cones, bobbins and salvages just roll off my tongue. Having to explain these things isn’t easy but again with my newly found “show and tell” skills, gestures and a little help from the other sewers I think I made my explanations fairly clear. I think Anju can do this job. Now I have to sleep with my fingers crossed hoping she wants it.

Lunch break in the MoonCatcher Sewing Center

Lunch break in the MoonCatcher Sewing Center

We got a fair amount taken care of today and once the cording and shoelaces show up tomorrow we should be able to teach the last little piece.

 We stopped for dinner at our favorite little cafe and chatted with our now familiar waiter who tells us he will be returning to Alaska on December 23. This seemed so funny to us. It’s mostly hot and sticky here. How is he going to manage the cold? But he says he likes it and loves working there. He insisted we have our picture taken with him so that he could remember us and be remembered. I love these chance encounters.

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On the way home, we bought boxes of sweets for each of our sewers and will hand them out when the chai guy comes tomorrow. It’s almost Diwali so sweets are given to celebrate the holiday. We wanted to honor that.

After chai we’ll say goodbye and head off to the airport to head home. I’ll miss these women that I’ve been working with these last two weeks. They are remarkable, strong souls. It’s been an honor to get to know them a little.

Good bye India!

Day 13: Laura is in India

We didn’t have to be anywhere this morning until 11:00 so I stayed in bed, wrote and then read my book for a while. That felt really nice. Once up, Maureen and I inventoried the extra fabrics we had bought for future kits, finished writing up the yardage and started to pack our bags to be sure we have enough room for all the sale items and our own personal stuff. It all looks doable. We’ll use the extra space that we found for shoelaces. Here they cost half the price of the ones at home so it seems like a good idea to carry some back with us. We use these shoelaces as our belt to hold up the MoonCatcher carrier. What a great find.

Our driver Mani Ram came to take us to Laura’s hotel down near the train station, about a forty minute drive away. Laura Kikuchi is on The MoonCatcher board and is traveling in India for two weeks with her Mom. They’ve worked out a wonderful itinerary for themselves and will have a really great adventure. That forty minute drive turned into about an hour because of an incredible traffic jam just around the corner from the hotel. It was mesmerizing watching  all these vehicles figure out how to untangle from this. We were in touch with Laura so able to just “go with the flow” and not worry that she’d be concerned.

We had a delicious lunch together and then took a little stroll down the street dodging the traffic and enjoying the energy. Our traveling friends were tired and a little dazed but we had fun and were so happy to connect in this far off land. Here’s hoping you have a fabulous trip dear Laura. 

Ellie and Laura

Ellie and Laura

We went to meet with a local Rotary Club tonight. We were invited to do a short presentation about The MoonCatcher Project in hopes that they would like to partner with our home Rotary Club for a global grant to help move this project forward in India. They were very receptive and agreed that there is a great need for this work. We will now let the two clubs talk to each other. This could be really exciting!

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Day 12: Henna hands

Yesterday (Day 11) was another day of sewing and today was busy busy busy! I went off to the sewing center and left Maureen behind to do computer work and catch up with herself.

I interviewed two potential candidates for supervisor position of the sewing space. Two lovely women, each with unique skills came to apply for the job. I’m not sure which one would be best. One can start on next Wednesday and the other on the fifteenth. That about cinches it for me since I leave next Tuesday, and we need someone to be there to let the sewers in and keep track of things by the 31st.

We spent some time with a lovely man who came to explain how the pay roll works and everyone had a chance to voice their concerns and get the details ironed out. it seems everyone is pleased with the end result. This is difficult for me since I don’t understand the intricacies of India law around these things though I do keep asking questions. I so want these wonderful women to feel happy doing this work and being part of The MoonCatcher Project.

Our new friend Vicrum came over with his beautiful wife to take a look at the place today. He had such nice things to say about the order of everything and the efficiency. That meant a lot to me since he runs a factory of over two hundred people. This is small potatoes for him, so it was especially kind that he took the time and was so generous with his praise.

The lights came on and off all day, so we had to keep moving sewers to the cutting tables or to stringing cording or packing. It’s hard to have five women around our not-so-big table all working but somehow we managed, and everyone was good natured about it. I love it that we laugh even though we don’t speak the same language. I somehow feel like I know these women though we speak only in gestures and smiles.

Maureen came later in the day and everyone was happy to see her. At the end of the day one of our sewers offered to paint our hands with henna. It was so much fun to see how this is done. I had no idea that it goes on in a thick line squeezed from a little, delicate, pastry-like tube and is done freehand by the artist. The designs are intricate and elegant. We loved the whole process. After about 45 minutes my hands started to itch and apparently that can be a signal that it’s time to brush and then wash the dried upper coating off. What appears looks soft and dull. I was a little disappointed until I was told that by morning it would be dark and gorgeous. I’m excited to see how it will look.

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Day 10: Tea Time

The tailors are getting better and better at making the MoonCatcher kits and we fallIng in love with them a little more every day. They are all so sweet and cheerful. It’s a joy to be around them.

 We covered the cutting table today to help keep fabrics from slipping. The containers are all labeled and just about everything is stowed exactly where it should be. It so nice to see our workspace come together and look so tidy!

 Today’s entry is short because we spent the day cutting and sewing!  AND, of course having a bit of chai tea!

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Day 9: Our new zigzag machine is here!

We left early again this morning for the sewing space and met our tailors for their second day of work. It was a busy and productive day. We got lots of pad carriers made, cut new parts and put elastic on shoelaces. This was especially exciting because we had ordered a home machine off of Amazon India and were curious to know if it would really show up. It did, and it works and we now have this important piece of equipment in place! We use it to properly attach the elastic to the shoelace so that it becomes a “one-size-fits-all” belt.

Maureen went shopping on the local streets with one of our tailors and bought lots of little things that will help make it easier to do this work. We now have small plastic bins, pins, tape, hand sewing needles, and other small but necessary items. It’s beginning to feel like a very well- equipped work space. We even have a sign-in notebook so that everyone can sign in and out each day.

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Maureen brought her little photo printer and at the very end of the day she printed off photos of each tailor. These women squealed like school girls when they saw those pictures come out of that machine. It was so much fun for us to watch this and made us laugh.

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Next, we went to the printer to copy off lists and contracts and whatnot. We bought pens and markers and then headed for a little cafe we’d heard about to have a quiet dinner and relax. The food was wonderful and my watermelon, honey dew and mint drink - yummy!

Fire crackers have started  to go off in preparation for Diwali, the big festival coming up on November seventh. I jump every single time one goes off. At the end of another amazing day, I am heading off for a shower and some sleep!

 

Day 8: First full day of sewing

We left at 8:00 this morning to be on time to open the sewing space and be ready for our first full day of making MoonCatcher Kits in India. Our five tailors showed up right on time and we set to work learning how to cut all the parts for our kits. Everyone took a turn and we carefully worked out how to make sure every part was cut just right.

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After about 2 hours of this we started the three sewers on making carriers. Each one made three and mostly they were perfect. They then made five waterproof bags and five drawstring bags. They ripped parts out  and corrected any mistakes they made. After this they set to work on making more of everything. We are missing some parts still, like Tyvek, shoelaces and a zig zag machine but everything has been ordered so hopefully it will all show up this week. We have even ordered MoonCatcher labels to go on the front of the drawstring bags. We’ll bring some of those home for the bags we make as well as those made in Africa.

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Our shelving hasn’t come yet but we still managed to get ourselves organized. We have fabric stored under the tables and bins of kit parts carefully separated and stowed there as well. It all feels much more like a sewing studio that works efficiently and it’s really pleasant to be in there.

We’ve hired a young woman for a few days to help us communicate with our tailors.  This has been a big help as we work to get the tailors up to speed and makes everything move along much more smoothly.

Maureen and I are beginning to get the hang of getting around here. We got ourselves to the sewing room and back without getting lost – a major accomplishment!  With Maureen’s google maps and a lot of pointing right, left or straight we are able to communicate with the taxi drivers. We also figured out that we need to hire the same driver every day for the whole day. This way we are sure of at least getting to the sewing room and home.

We ended the day showing the women pictures of themselves and ones of us giving school girls our kits. We wanted them to see what will be happening with their work. We had told them about it and done a demonstration of our lesson,  but this really brought it to life and they enjoyed seeing the photos. We’ll print out pictures of each one of them for the work space too so that they will feel some ownership. We also decided that we will provide a tea break for them every day. This is pretty standard in India and as Maureen says it’s a lovely thing to do.

It was a productive day and we’ve earned an early bedtime!

Day 7: Time to Visit Schoolgirls!

We went to two schools today and taught our menstrual management and reproductive health curriculum. Both groups were great. In the morning we spoke to the younger students (eleven, twelve and thirteen years old).  They were so adorable, shy, and embarrassed talking about periods. By the end they were a bit more comfortable, but this isn’t a topic that is easily spoken of here. 

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In the afternoon it was an easier conversation. These were older students in secondary school who knew the basics and were willing to ask questions. It was fun to hear what they had to say and to get a sense of what concerned them. These kids come to this school later in the day to get some extra help. They are from fairly poor families and in many cases help support their families with whatever work they can find.

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Day7 student.jpg

We were amazed at the art and poetry these children created and touched that they wanted to share it with us.

We went to meet up with Ruchika’s Dad tonight and had wonderful conversation about  how to make this project work. He is a dear and so thoughtful.

Day 6: Feeling Like A Rock Star

It’s been a really nice day. We left a bit later than usual and headed for a lovely shop that Ruchika really likes and rightly so. It was filled with beautiful handmade items. There was even a little food shop with teas, honey, grains, etc. We sampled delicious ginger turmeric tea and bought some soaps and lotions and, yes, that incredible tea.

Ellie and Ruchika do a little shopping.

Ellie and Ruchika do a little shopping.

We were happy to find a copy shop to print off a bunch of info from Maureen’s computer and to buy toilet paper at the shop two doors down. 

By noon we were at the door of the school being greeted by two lovely women who ushered us inside and gave us a tour of the building. It turns out that the School of Social Work only meets in this building on Sundays. The rest of the week the building is a school for children with disabilities, so we saw modifications for these children throughout the building. It was fun to get a glimpse into this world as well.

We had 67 attendees in the assembly hall where I gave our talk. Almost everyone was a student in her/his twenties. We had some teachers too and a few older students. We were delighted that a good showing of male students showed up and even more delighted that they asked questions and took a great interest in the project. 

The presentation went really well. The video and slideshow were well received and prompted lots of questions. We ended the session asking for an intern and several students seemed interested.

 Funniest part was the picture taking at the end. There were cameras going off everywhere and student after student asked to have a photo taken with me. There were selfies being taken, group shots, silly poses, headshots...you name it. I felt like a Rockstar and finally, laughing, had to say enough. It felt great having all those young people all excited about what we do. We loved it.

Ellie and Maureen with the Social Work students who gave them marigold necklaces.

Ellie and Maureen with the Social Work students who gave them marigold necklaces.

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Day6 Maureen with students.jpg

The late afternoon was spent shopping at a very upscale crafts fair. We bought a few well priced smaller items for MoonBee sales and then dragged ourselves home. I’m going to go help prepare dinner.

Outside the craft bazaar: a medallion of fresh flowers.

Outside the craft bazaar: a medallion of fresh flowers.

Namaste!

Day 5: Fabric, fabric and more fabric!

We spent half the day at the sewing space and continued training with four of our five tailors. They are getting up to speed and doing careful work. I find myself being a real stickler about quality control. I want to be sure that I leave here with each woman knowing how to do beautiful work. We are certainly making progress.  I’m feeling pleased.

 Driving around this city is pretty exciting. All the cars jostle for position with seemingly no care about lanes or shoulders. It’s a bit daunting for Americans who are used to drivers, more or less, obeying the rules. All these drivers communicate by honking so the sound is amazing. Most of the time I find it exciting and fun to watch all the people coming and going around the vehicles but sometimes I close my eyes and just can’t look. I do love seeing all the cows sitting wherever they want with cars carefully driving around them.

Later in the afternoon we went fabric shopping to find just the right materials for MoonCatcher kits made in India. We found the most beautiful 100 percent cotton block prints in glorious colors. We decided on all red prints for the carriers and lots of bright colors for the drawstring bags. I got a few pieces to bring home as well, for people who like to buy fabrics from our MoonBee sales.

Day5 Fabric & Ellie.jpg
Day5 Fabric.jpg

We are getting closer to finding everything we need. Things are falling into place and we are moving ahead.

Tomorrow I’ll present at The School of Social Work. Our PowerPoint presentation is complete and Ruchika found a projector for us. We had fun setting it up with the men at the place we were borrowing it from. Again, lots of pointing and laughing as we figured out the adapters and connectors needed to make it work. It does!

Off for a shower and bed.

 

India Day 4: Christmas shopping..or something like that!

We had a pretty quiet morning today. Because of the big holiday we couldn’t go to the sewing room or visit any schools. We stayed put and worked on a power point presentation that I’m giving on Sunday. It’s been a bit difficult thinking about how to put together a presentation on the MoonCatcher Project in a different country. Some of the things that interest Americans just don’t apply elsewhere. I’m working hard to make it an informative and culturally relevant experience for our audience.

My sister Gussie gave me a brand-new state of the art I-pad and though I thought I knew everything about how to use it.  Apparently, I don’t. It’s taking me a while to get up to speed and there are some things that continue to totally bewilder me. I can sense many of you nodding your heads knowing how I can be technologically challenged at times!  Oh well I’ll just muddle along as our Mom would have said.

So, muddle I did and with the help of Maureen I managed to put together a pretty good version of what I’m hoping to cover on Sunday. We got some plans ready for tomorrow and caught up with ourselves a little bit.

 Later in the day we took an Uber to the crafts market to buy some goodies to sell at MoonBees. The market has brightly colored fabrics draped overhead and stall after stall of magical Indian gifts. Everything seems shiny and sparkling. We bought earrings and necklaces and incredibly soft pashmina shawls and scarves. We especially loved the undyed wools in natural grays, browns, and creams but selected some brightly colored silks as well to round out our selections. It felt like Christmas.

We made our way home with only a small glitch. The Uber driver turned down a narrow little alley – avoiding cows and people as best he could – and at the end he stopped the car and made it known that he expected us to get out. It was very dark and a bit scary there. We were sure that this was not where we needed to debark and told him that NO we were sure he made a mistake. With gestures and lots of pointing to google maps while shaking our heads, we convinced him to turn around and try again. Actually, we were very near to our house but having no idea how this city works we didn’t understand that. Thank goodness we are together. Together we somehow manage to make ourselves understood and often end up laughing and thinking that this too will make a good story.

Day4 ellie&maureen and scarves.jpg
The entrance to the craft bazaar.

The entrance to the craft bazaar.

Day4 earrings.jpg

Day 3: How to Communicate in India!

It’s 9:50 pm and we just got home about a half hour ago. It’s been a long but very productive day. Maureen and I set off for the sewing room alone this morning. Ruchika’s day was filled with meetings so we were flying solo.

Trying to communicate with no Hindi proved to be a bit of a challenge, especially since our sewers speak almost no English. Maureen downloaded Google Translator and we spent the day speaking simple sentences into her phone, which would then translate into Hindi. It worked pretty well until we discovered that some of our crew didn’t read. Back to the drawing board! Ah - the app has sound and Maureen figured out that she could hold the phone up to someone’s ear and they could hear the translation. That worked! Being the techie that I am, I mostly used hand and body gestures thinking this will really help hone my skills for playing charades.

In the midst of all the sewing instruction we worked with electricians, carpenters and even someone to fix the toilet.

Day 3 workers.jpg

We made curtains for the windows and continued to organize all the supplies that we now have. We hired our first tailor and will continue training others who look like they too will work out well. They will come back on Saturday and we’ll keep teaching.

For two weeks prior to our arrival our friend and partner Ruchika was here meeting with contractors to outfit the space. She had sewing machines delivered and lighting suspended above the machines. The place had been filled with “stuff” and she made sure every bit of it was removed and the place scrubbed from stem to stern. It is pretty! I know I sent a picture the other day, but I don’t think it showed the ceiling with medallions painted in bright cheerful colors and three whirling fans that make it feel like it’s air conditioned. It’s really a lovely space to work in. I am so grateful for all the hard work and love put into that room. Thank you dear Ruchika.

Day3 ceiling.jpg

Tomorrow is a holiday here – “Dussehra” – and everyone has Friday and Saturday off. We plan to spend tomorrow putting together a presentation for a talk to students at a school of social work on Sunday and just collect ourselves after all this activity.

The weather has been hot and steamy. The streets are lively, and the women’s outfits continue to charm us with their brilliant colors. I think we saw even more of this amazing finery tonight as we waited for an UBER on our busy street. Everyone seems to be starting the holiday festivities early.

We hired our first official tailor and she finished her first kit!  Welcome to the MoonCatcher Project, Aneesah!

We hired our first official tailor and she finished her first kit! Welcome to the MoonCatcher Project, Aneesah!