Hundreds of men, women and children living below the poverty line in 16 countries are a little warmer these days thanks to the Quebec Native Women‚’s Ministries in Chapais and their Covered by Love project.
It was started in 2004 when six women got together to make quilts from recycled materials for needy individuals around the world.
Sandra Morton, Sectional Representative for the QNWM, came up with the idea after a 2001 visit to a small village in Malawi, Africa.
She was on a mission at the time, called the Warm Heart of Africa and she was appalled by the horrid living conditions.
“The average income in that area is less than $300 a year,” she said. “It’s very poor. I was overwhelmed by the poverty.”
Morton said she was struck with an overwhelming desire to do whatever she could to help them out.
When her mother passed away in 2004, Morton said she felt closer to God. It compelled her to make a quilt through the newly formed Village of Hope Project and send it to Malawi.
Well-wishers also sent a donation in lieu of flowers in her mother’s name – to the tune of $3000 – to Africa.
Morton said that she could sense the presence of God during that tough period in her life and it enabled her to focus on the positive side and look past the grief.
“By the end of the day we had two quilt tops made from recycled fabric,” said Morton of the date the project started, February 12, 2004. “Nine months later we had 144 quilts made to send to Africa.”
The project is becoming better known as materials to make the quilts are donated by locals as well as people from all over the country and different parts of the world.
Morton went to Siberia last year to give 37 quilts to needy individuals and she recently sent along another 47 to El Salvador to aid street kids.
In all, she and her throng of helpers have created hundreds of quilts, including a factory-like effort of 102 quilts since December 2007.
When one of their sewing machines broke down recently, Morton made a plea to the Cree Trappers Association and they cut a cheque for $350 to purchase a new commercial one.
Morton said many Cree women have helped, including 87-year-old Nanny Jolly from Mistissini who made 11 of those first quilts back in 2004.
The QNWM made 34 quilts for the hospital in Chibougamau. They also took 27 of the tattered or sub par quilts and made them into dog beds for the Chibougamau veterinarian.
Morton told a story of Sylvie, an Abenaki from Obedjiwan who was in a car accident last year. She is now in a wheelchair as the accident took away her ability to walk. She was able to choose her own blanket.
Morton and friends also helped a young girl from Chapais who had a television fall on her head February 4. She is slated to be in the hospital for a year. The Ministry held a fundraiser for the girl and gave her the quilt of her choice.
“It’s so incredible,” she said. “It’s like a miracle to see little pieces of fabric come together to make a quilt, but it’s also a ministry of reconciliation because we have Native and nonnatives working together and they are sisters. I think that is what this project is all about – reconciliation and healing.”
Minnie Wapachee of Ouje-Bougoumou has been there from the start. She sees it as a way to give to those who need it the most.
“It was really good for me to go on this trip and deliver those first quilts that we made,” Wapachee said of her trip to Africa in 2005. “There are so many things we take for granted over here and it’s a totally different world in other countries like Malawi.”
Wapachee was pregnant with her two-year-old son Silas at that time. Since his arrival she does not always have the time to play as big a part as she would like, but she participates when she can.
“It’s gone beyond quilts,” she said. “The latest project one of the ladies is working on is making bibs. It continues to grow as we go along.”
Wapachee said sometimes she does not even see the quilt as it is being created by the team. She works on her own square at the same time as others and then the next thing they know, the quilt is completed.
“If anybody sees the need to help out in whatever area, whether it be this project or to volunteer to help other people, it’s quite beneficial,” she said. “Not just for other people, but for yourself as well. The work itself is very peaceful and it’s fun to see how it helps others.”
For more information on the project or to donate materials or to help sew, contact Sandra Morton at 418-745-2684 or firstname.lastname@example.org