Students teach sewing and business practices in the Dominican Republic
July 15, 2010 By Marla Sweitzer
of the Batey church) are currently working in the Dominican
Republic on Nest fellowships.
In the Dominican Republic community where the students are
working, the unemployment rate is nearly 100 percent. The goal
of their summer in the region, Lynn says, is to enable women in
the Batey Aleman community to continue working as
seamstresses on their own.
With needle and thread in hand, Morgan Lynn ’11 and Jose Ordonez ’10 are sewing the seams of change in the Dominican Republic community of Batey Aleman this summer.
Both Lynn and Ordonez are on Nest fellowships to launch Nest’s newest loan program.
Nest, a non-profit microlending organization that empowers female artists and artisans around the world, is partnering with the Albert Pujols Family Foundation for the project. The Pujols Foundation has been working in Batey Aleman for six years.
Lynn’s and Ordonez’s task is to work with a group of 10 women, teaching them how to sew, providing training in business, finance and budgeting, in addition to implementing Nest’s unique microbartering support system. The program will enable the women of the community, where unemployment is nearly 100 percent, to continue the sewing projects on their own.
“Our goal for the end of the fellowship is to have the women ready to begin making basic handbags that they will send back to Nest as repayment for the loan that has funded their sewing machines and the materials needed to make the product,” Lynn says.
An international studies major with a concentration in development, Lynn interned with Rebecca Kousky, Nest’s founder and director, last summer in Washington, D.C. She has also worked to raise awareness of Nest and its mission on Centre’s campus as president of Centre Nest.
“I continued helping with projects while I was studying in Mexico last fall with the Centre-in-Yucatan program, and then Nest offered me the fellowship in February. We’ve been working hard to prepare for this project since then,” she says.
Lynn also did an independent study on microfinance during CentreTerm. “The research from that course was extremely helpful as we began preparing for the Dominican Republic program,” she says.
Lynn hopes to serve in the Peace Corps after graduation. “The work we’re doing here is very similar to that of Peace Corps, and so my time here is giving me a taste for the work I’ll perhaps be doing for two years after I graduate from Centre,” Lynn says.
Further down the road, Lynn anticipates attending graduate school for development economics.
“This project is a perfectly ideal start; I’m able to witness the groundwork that is involved in this field,” she says. “Here, I’m seeing microfinance happen from the beginning, and I'll have the opportunity to follow the process and find out exactly how it changes the lives of those who use it.”
As the women in the community are all mothers with children, the day-to-day schedule works around their daily routine. Ordonez, who is fluent in Spanish, is teaching the business curriculum.
“The language barrier is tough to breach,” Lynn says. “I’m fluent in French, but my Spanish needs work. Especially teaching a sewing course, where you need to tell the women that this is called a ‘shuttle race,’ this is a ‘bobbin,’ and ‘today we’ll learn how to make a slipstitch;’ it’s sometimes difficult to find the words.”
While the fellowship is unpaid, Lynn is also receiving additional funding from the Centre Internship Plus program. which allows students to apply for exciting, high-quality internship experiences—some of which are for academic credit—with extra financial support. Students whose internships are approved receive up to $1,500 to help with expenses.
Follow Lynn’s and Ordonez’s journey at http://sewingsemillas.blogspot.com/, updated daily.