By Patricia Hamill
As you may have read on our web site, we received a wonderful letter from Peace Corps volunteer Liz Deppe thanking us for making it possible for the school where she teaches to acquire 20 sewing machines. Located on the island of St. Vincent, the Barrouallie Secondary School (BSS) is the fortunate institution to welcome Liz and, hence, receive the machines. Originally from Ames Iowa, Liz has only been in St. Vincent for 8 months as an assistant to the teachers in the art and reading courses; however, in that short time, she has made an enormous difference. Having known about P4P from our work in Iowa, she decided to contact us about donations of sewing machines to incorporate into the curriculum. What can they do for employment without this skill? While banana production has dominated the economy, the government has been seeking ways of diversifying so that Vincentians do not continue to be vulnerable to price fluctuations and crop diseases. Tourism is an industry that has grown widely, but not everyone is able to profit from this type of expansion. This is where the importance of a solid education backed up by practical vocational skills comes into our story. According to Liz, “[t]hat first project and many more projects the students at BSS will work on are teaching them more than just how to sew. They are learning patience, creativity, problem-solving skills and a sense of accomplishment.” While the machines are not used for production but strictly classroom learning, there is hope that more machines can be acquired so that families may be able to purchase them and begin their own businesses. At the very least, the students have a marketable skill to offer alongside the knowledge they gain from their studies.
Liz has witnessed firsthand the lasting effect that tangible results from focused effort provide: “What I believe is the most rewarding part of our newly created sewing program is a sense of accomplishment. At a school with little resources and many struggling students, it is amazing to watch a student, who has never felt proud, show you what they have accomplished. Their face beams as they hold up the finished product, something they can use and show off.” It is part of our mission to do the utmost to send our shipments as economically as possible while striving to get the sewing machines and bikes out to those in need as quickly as possible. P4P was able to ensure that the sewing machines could make it to the school and with as little financial burden as possible by sending them via sea rather than air. The cost was demonstrably lower at $10 per piece. If all goes well, we may be able to continue this relationship not only with the school but also expand to other institutions on the island. It is Peace Corps Volunteers like Liz and people like our partners and contributors who think progressively, initiate programs, and give support that make our efforts so successful.