Sew Bain club sends handmade clothing to Nicaragua

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Three times a week, in the after-school hours, nearly a dozen students are hard at work at Hugh B. Bain Middle School, hand-sewing clothing to be sent to children in Latin American countries where brand-new clothing is scarce.

Rachel Bousquet works with a group of girls in the Sew Bain after-school club, a club that is part of the Bain after-school program. (Bain is funded by 21st Century funds, currently at risk of being cut from the federal budget.) Bousquet teaches the students sewing machine basics and sewing techniques, and the students design the clothing they're sewing, right down to coordinating accents and accessories.

"We started coming in September and October," said Abrina Estrada, a sixth-grader who was new to the middle school. "I thought it was a good way to make friends."

Bousquet had approached program director Ayana Crichton with the idea for a sewing club, which would teach girls how to sew, in the hopes that the clothing being made could be sent to some of the Latin American countries that the girls in the club were from. Coincidentally, photography club instructor Alicia Turbitt was heading to Nicaragua in January, and a plan was created to take the new handmade clothes with her.

"The goal now is to send more clothing, but to expand to more countries the girls are from, such as Haiti, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic," Bousquet said.

Some of the students came in with some basic sewing skills and many had the ability to hand-sew with a needle and thread, but for most, learning to sew on machines is brand new. The group, which consists of many students who are bilingual, and Bousquet is teaching the terms in English that go along with the sewing.

"She teaches us step-by-step so it's not so hard and she waits to move on until we know what we're doing," said Anneliese Montesino, a sixth-grader. "I am really thankful to her for teaching us how to sew."

As the school year has gone on, the students have grown close to each other, and their kindness extends beyond the gifts they are creating for others, helping to encourage their own peers.

"They are really very kind to one another and have become like a little family in here," Bousquet said. "They give each other ideas, they are really encouraging each other and they help each other."

Volunteer Naraly Barrious agrees.

"I think I can speak for everyone that since the group started there has just always been such a bond and these girls always have each other's backs," she said.

"When someone is sad, we help them to feel happy and comfortable," said Luz Marie Plasencia.

One common thread seems to run through the group as they discuss the good feelings that they get from creating something so special for someone else, someone less fortunate than they are.

"I feel such happiness when I am working on a project because I am giving the clothing to poor children and it makes me overwhelmingly happy," said Abby Morales, a seventh-grader.

Knowing that so many children only have hand-me-down clothing is something that is on the forefront of seventh-grader Stacey Rios' mind when she is sewing.

"To know that they are receiving these clothes with such happiness because they are brand new clothes and people here do not value that as much as these children do, that makes me feel good," she said.

Bousquet knows that the students could just as easily be sewing items for themselves, and yet they continue week after week to sew for others. It is that sense of kindness and generosity that she appreciates seeing the most when working with her students, and they see it in her as well.

"I am happy when I am sewing because I know that when the kids get the clothing, they are going to feel really happy," said Plasencia. "I feel thankful for Miss Rachel for teaching us so many things and for being a really nice person.”

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