Three women affiliated with the Ursuline College Fashion Department and the Executive Director of the Cleveland-based H.E.L.P. Malawi Organization returned from the Third World country about a month ago.
When Dr. Connie Korosec, alumna Tiffany Mushrush-Mentzer and grad student Anne-Marie Gurko arrived, they found the need was great.
Some people's shirts were held up by string, buttons were broken and their zippers didn't work.
All students were eager to learn. Getting to the classroom portion of this adventure was a challenge though.
Months before the trip, the sewing machines and all of the supplies were sent on a cargo ship. They also had to find a way to get electricity and a generator to the village.
Dr. Korosec, who chairs the Urusline Fashion Department, said the goal was to teach sewing techniques that could translate into larger projects.
By the end of the week, students were making things like pillow cases and tote bags. They even learned embroidery.
"It was amazing to me how fast the students could learn and they wanted to run the sewing machines about 100 miles an hour," Korosec laughed.
Jessica Lowe, of HELP Malawi, said this skill is one that will help them sustain a higher quality of life.
"Each student took it upon themselves grab one of their peers and just start mending -- immediately fixing buttons and taking the skills they'd learned throughout the week, skills and bringing them to life in the school," Lowe said.
On the last day of the trip, the students and teachers who had learned from the ladies went throughout the school of 850 students and mended about 250 things.
For fun, Gurko created a flower out of some of the yarn that they'd brought with them. The students caught on and wore them on their clothes and on their heads.
"They were really excited about them and they wanted to make more, the boys and the girls, so it was something fun for them to do," Gurko said.
"They wanted us to stay. They wanted more lessons," Korosec said.
The students were women and men of all ages.
Mushrush-Mentzer said she would recommend everyone take advantage of an opportunity to visit a Thirld World nation.
"When we went, we thought we'd be teaching so much and we definitely did, but in the end, I think we learned so much more from them."
Korosec describes the children there "like velvet around (her) heart."
"It changed my life," Korosec said. "They have so little and everything we gave changed their life as well."
H.E.L.P. Malawi is a Cleveland-based non-profit organization run by the Wolstein Family.