Sewing the seeds of hope, literally

November 4, 2009 3:59:50 PM PST
What began as a student project for a young University of Pennsylvania woman from Zimbabwe has become an international effort to help the impoverished people of that country.

The student is quite remarkable; her project focuses on the most vulnerable of Zimbabwe's population, elderly women by providing them with sewing machines to help them earn a living:

Her name is Tariro Mupombwa. She is now a senior med student at Penn.

She began her project in February, partnering with the Salvation Army here and in Zimbabwe, the OIC, and others to see it become a reality.

"US Department of Commerce helped out, Federal Express helped out, UPS was really a big help, so a lot of parties were involved," OIC volunteer Louis Simmer said.

"To find someone from another country trying to do something for their country is just a wonderful experience," Reverend Bonnie Camarda fo the Salvation Army said.

During a visit to her homeland last December, Tariro saw her country, already in the midst of economic turmoil, was hit by a cholera outbreak. She realized Zimbabwe needed help.

"It was very nice that I was spending time with my family, but it was really depressing because I could look around see a lot were suffering," Mupombwa said.

She began collecting sewing machines in the area and networking. The 31 machines she and volunteers packed at the Salvation Army Tabernacle Corp Community Center today will be shipped by UPS to the Bumhudzo Old People's Home in the embattled town of Chitungwiza.

The women there will use them to learn sewing skills and eventually earn a living, making uniforms for children attending schools, operated by the Salvation Army.

"I think this is going to be a very powerful tool for them because it's amazing how much stuff you can be able to do with the sewing machine, so this is actually empowering them to support themselves and this is something that is going to be sustainable," Tariro said.

The sewing machines are expected to reach their destination by the end of the month, just before Tariro starts interviewing for medical school.

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