The Sewing Machine Project was conceived in early 2005, following the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia. “I’d read an article about a woman who had lost a sewing machine in the storm, a machine she’d saved for years to buy, and, in losing it, she lost her means of making an income. I began collecting donated sewing machines here in Wisconsin and shipping them to Sri Lanka”, says Margaret Jankowski, founder of this project. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in September 2005 she decided to shift her focus to that area. Since then, she has made four trips to the city, taking over 275 machines. These machines are distributed to individuals as well as schools and community centers. People are using them not only to rebuild their lives but also to start small sewing-related businesses.
Another facet of the Project is the Pay it Forward program. Margaret partners with groups in the New Orleans community who need volunteers for sewing-related projects. Some groups need sewing teachers while others simply need people to help sew little infant caps for the local children’s hospital. When an individual receives a machine, they are asked to volunteer with one of these groups. In this way, they can use their new tool to help their own community.
Community is important no matter where you live. It becomes even more important in the aftermath of a disaster. The mission of the Sewing Machine Project is to give people a tool that will not only help them mend their own lives but also will give them a way to take an active role in the rebuilding of their community. People grow strong and their community grows strong as well.
If you are interested in assisting with any aspect of this project, please visit www.TheSewingMachineProject.org.