A group of Okanagan women is looking to keep its sewing class in Haiti running – and it’s doing so with freshly baked apple pies.
After a generous donor gave the group somewhere between 600 and 800 pounds of apples, Canadian Partners 4 Haiti now has the tall task of turning them all into funds for a program they started in 2017 that teaches Haitian women a skill that can help them earn a living.
Judy Douglas has made efforts to help Haitian women since 2010, when she started working at a medical clinic about an hour outside of Port-au-Prince. Having started the tuition-free sewing class two years ago, she and Partners 4 Haiti are raising money to bring materials to help see the women through to graduation.
“Vernon people have been very generous to us over the years, especially when I went to Haiti four days after Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016,” says Douglas. She first went in 2010 shortly after a magnitude-7 earthquake devastated the local population, killing more than 300,000 people.
The apple pie fundraiser is taking place on Oct. 8 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the All Saints Anglican Church. The group will need all the volunteer support it can get to make the pies, and to possibly deliver them for a small donation.
Money earned from selling the pies will go towards the wages of the sewing teacher the group has been working with, as well as sewing materials and maintenance of the 12 sewing machines that were donated by Vernon residents in 2017.
The group works closely with OSAPO, a non-profit Haitian organization that may sound familiar to Vernonites: Canadian Partners 4 Haiti formerly operated as Canadian Friends of OSAPO.
The apples were donated by East Kelowna resident Dave Bullach, who also donated his time by picking them himself.
For now the sewing school has 10 Haitian pupils , and the hope is that they’ll graduate in June 2020. Douglas and Kermociev plan to go to Haiti in either February or June of next year.
“It’s such a different world than what we have here,” says Douglas, who explains that the class may take up to three years to complete instead of the two years they originally estimated. That’s because the Haitian women are illiterate and don’t have the benefit of learning from written instructions.
The group differentiates itself from organizations that send money for overseas relief by using their funds towards providing a life skill, with the hopes of their cause having a lasting effect.
“The general public has kind of been inundated with people asking for donations for different countries, and the reality is that doesn’t work very well,” says Susan Kermociev, a core member of the organization.
“So the whole purpose behind the sewing school is trying to enable these Haitian women to help themselves. It’s providing them with a skill that they might be able to make a living with eventually.”
Douglas and Kermociev bring two hockey bags full of sewing supplies each time they visit Haiti – and they could always use more bodies to help transport materials.
“If there are people out there who would like to join us to go that’s great because then two more hockey bags of supplies can go!” says Douglas.
Pies can be picked up at the church starting noon on Tuesday, Oct. 8. Douglas welcomes anyone who would like to volunteer with the group in any capacity to contact her at 778-212-8877.