SYLVANIA—The Sylvania Franciscan Sisters recently received a $5,000 grant to help run a sewing center they have established in Haiti.
The center is aimed to assist local residents learn a trade to support themselves. The grant was provided by the Social Justice Fund of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, which was created to help that congregation of sisters expand their commitment to those who are economically disenfranchised.
A Haitian woman learns how to operate a pedal-operated Singer sewing machine the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania have received to start a small business to help residents learn a trade to make money to support themselves. (Photo courtesy of the Sylvania Franciscan Sisters)
The Sylvania Franciscans have had sisters ministering in the mountains above Pestel, Haiti, since 2001. In addition to providing health care and the means to clean drinking water for residents in the 14 surrounding villages, the sisters have created an economic development program to help the Haitians learn how to support themselves.
It was determined there was an interest from the Haitians to become seamstresses, but with no readily available sewing machines and no reliable electricity to operate them, even if they had them, the project posed serious challenges. The solution to that problem came in the form of Kevin Kretz, a high school student at the Toledo Technology Academy, who was looking for a project to complete his work toward becoming an Eagle Scout. With the help of the Toledo Little Flower Parish Haiti Committee, Kevin and his family secured 17 manual sewing machines, got them in working order and shipped them to Haiti in 2011 to support the sisters' fledgling sewing center.
“God sends His blessing in many ways and right now it is in the form of sewing machines,” says Sylvania Franciscan Sister Josephine Dybza, who is responsible for the sewing center project. “These machines will become instruments of peace for the Haitians to give them the ability to help themselves. We are especially grateful to the Philadelphia Franciscans for their generosity with this grant to help support our ministry.”
The grant money will take the sewing center project to the next step and will be used to rent a building to house the machines, hire a manager and develop an educational program to train Haitians. In an area of the country where unemployment is more than 80 percent, this can be a significant step toward helping local residents learn how to provide for themselves.
“We commend the Sylvania Franciscans for establishing a sewing center in Haiti and providing education and job training for area residents,” says Sister Nora Nash, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. “This is a very worthy small business initiative that will enable the community to be more sustainable and self-sufficient.”