Learning to Fish—for Underwear…Feb. 6, 2012

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” ~ Chinese Proverb

Underwear can be a big deal, especially if you don’t have any. They’re on the must-have list of supplies and uniforms needed for children to attend school. But Becky from Nebraska came up with a solution for families in Cozumel who simply can’t afford to purchase underwear: make them yourself.

“I started making underwear for my own kids more than 40 years ago,” Becky said. “I’ve taken underwear to Bolivia, Honduras, and also sent some to Africa. I had extra fabric and I thought I could put it to use to help people in Cozumel.”

Becky and Mike taught sewing classes at NUAFA.

So she made a couple dozen pairs of children’s underwear at home last year and sent them to the island with another mission volunteer. Then she learned about the sewing workshops for women at NUAFA (Nucleo de Apoya Familiar – or Heart of Family Support) supported by Friends of Cozumel. What a perfect opportunity to adopt the model from the Chinese proverb about teaching a man to fish. It was time for Becky to do some teaching in Cozumel.

Becky teamed up with her husband Mike to hold special sewing classes at NUAFA on making children’s underwear. Becky used her sewing skills while Mike was her Spanish translator.

“I left Honduras at age 17, so I was worried I wouldn’t be able to translate well,” said Mike. “I prayed for some intervention and when I worked with the sewing class, it turned out well. We taught them how to trace the patterns, how to cut the fabric and how to sew it together. The women were so happy they gave Becky a hug.”

Learning to sew on stretch fabric can be a challenge.

Becky and Mike brought nearly 15 yards of fabric and 300 yards of elastic as well as master patterns and paper to Cozumel. They anticipated working with five or six women, but were surprised when the class attracted more people.

“I was overwhelmed,” Becky said. “They just kept coming.”

Twenty-two women came to the class along with their regular instructor. Becky and Mike trained the teacher, then helped each individual with their underwear projects. The women were amazed that a man would step outside of the cultural norms to help with this project, but took it in stride.

“They all did a good job and were really happy,” she said. “They were so proud.  When the first one finished her underwear, she held it up and everyone clapped. I was really pleased.”

Becky also put her sewing skills to work for other Friends of Cozumel projects such as banners and

an alter cloth for Vida Abundante church, and a cushion for a special chair for a disabled child.

“You never know how your individual talents can be put to work to make a significant impact on people’s lives,” said Ilene, one of our organizational leaders. “But if you offer them, we’ll find a way. Kudos to Mike, Becky and all the others who are making this mission week a success.”

— Phyllis

The women are proud to show off the results of their new sewing skills.

The new banner and altar cloth were used in Vida Abundante's church service where Larry, Gary, Jay and Julie provided music for services Sunday morning.

Women in the NUAFA sewing class were thrilled to learn how to make underwear for their children.

Becky also created a banner and an alter cloth for Vida Abundante church.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *