HEPAC and Borderlinks
Staying informed and involved in US/Mexico border issues.
Helping an agency that provides networking and food-support skills for immigrants and refugees in Tucson.
Needlework For Nogales Children (N4NC)
Needlework for Nogales Children (N4NC) is a mission activity that was started by a small group of women at Casas Adobes Congregational UCC in January, 2013. The women of N4NC wanted to make a difference in the lives of children living in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Through a connection with HEPAC, “Hogar de Esperanzay Paz” (Home of Hope and Peace), in Nogales, N4NC began making sweaters and other warm clothing for the children. As more CACC-UCC women joined the group, they decided to teach the mothers of these children to knit and crochet so they could make clothing for their own children. There was also the possibility that they might develop skills that would enable them to start home-based businesses. With donations of supplies (yarn, needles and hooks) from church members, friends and family, classes began in May of 2013. The students were the mothers and grandmothers who volunteered at the community center, HEPAC, and who cooked and served a free lunch to about 100 children every school day. The CACC-UCC group taught knitting and crocheting and in the process, “cross border friendships” were made and strengthened. The women were eager to learn and worked very hard on projects from week to week. Soon they were making simple knitted and crocheted items that could be sold at churches and retirement homes and later at three commercial shops in Tucson. A simple crocheted necklace made from a very lightweight, olorful yarn was their first, and continues to be, the best-selling item. These necklaces seem to sell themselves. Complete strangers have noticed the necklaces, heard the story and have bought them on the spot. Later, when the CACC-UCC group began to teach sewing, the possibilities for more products and greater sales expanded. After two years of working together, the women formed a cooperative, Mujeres Unidas de HEPAC. Now the women were really beginning to think and act like businesswomen.
For one and ½ years, 2 or 3 women from N4NC journeyed across the border each Monday to teach a new stitch, a new technique, a new product. As the women began to work more independently, teaching visits decreased to every other week. Now in May 2016, the women’s cooperative has turned the corner and has taken responsibility for its own success. They are handling their own finances, purchasing materials, researching products and venues for selling in Mexico as well as the U.S. The more experienced sewers, knitters and crocheters are doing the teaching and they are running their own business. The role of N4NC members has changed substantially: they have worked themselves out of a job. Although they will continue to make periodic visits to their friends in Nogales and provide support as needed, their primary role now is to be “encouragers and cheerleaders” for the cooperative.
The story will continue . . . at a recent meeting, the women’s cooperative shared their dream of learning how to make wedding and quinceañera (coming of age) dresses. They have seen there is a strong market in Nogales for selling such dresses and they are positioned to take advantage of just such a market. In addition, they are prepared to sell at much lower prices to the families in their own and other poor neighborhoods, so that these girls might enjoy their celebrations that much more.
For more information or to help, contact: Michelle Perrin 520-561- 2630 or Grace Bunker/Toña Morales-Calkins 520-308- 4329