The Perla project in Madagascar is a Freedom Climb-sponsored ministry. Read Operation Mobilization writer Rebecca Rempel’s report on how this project is changing lives in this African country.
“I couldn’t sew. I didn’t even know how to handle a needle,” admitted widow and mother of seven, Celestine. “But now, I am very happy because I am able.”
Perle, meaning ‘pearl’ in Malagasy, is a Freedom Climb project in Madagascar, that teaches women how to sew and run their own businesses. Like Celestine, many of the students had never picked up a needle prior to class.
“Before, when there was a torn place in my children’s clothing, I didn’t know how to fix it,” said Celestine. “Now I can. I have already sewn up all the tears.”
This is the first time Perle has run in Ambovombe, a town in the Androy region to the south of the island. Earlier this year it ran in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, with four students graduating. In the capital, the students lived on base and attended classes daily. In addition to sewing, they were taught cooking and housekeeping during the month-long course. The OM team saw the need for Perle in Ambovombe, but knew it would have to run differently then it had in Antananarivo. All the women signed up for Perle in the south had families dependent on them, so living away from home was not an option. Instead of an every day, month-long course, Ambovombe’s Perle holds three hour classes, three times a week, for six months.
In Ambovombe, Perle was the answer to Marena’s prayers.
“For a long time I’ve desired to have a handcraft. When the announcement went through church, I decided to join,” she said.
Out of the 11 women enrolled, eight of them are widowed. Marena is one of the three ladies whose husbands are alive.
“It is hard, because we study and take care of our families,” said Marena. “At the beginning it was so difficult. My husband was angry with me (for taking classes), but that changed. He knows that I am studying, and that there will be a difference in our home because of it.”
Besides stitching by hand, the women practice on two sewing machines. One is hand cranked, and the other is electric, although with power outages it can not always be counted on. Originally the program was to have three machines, but the OM team sold one to pay their bus fares to Ambovombe.
Dresses, skirts, shirts, and undergarments have all been completed successfully, and the group has moved on to trousers.
“We are proud that we do not study for nothing, but will have great benefit from our study,” said Fine. “At the beginning we were babies in the world of sewing. We thank the Lord for giving us knowledge and understanding.”
“I am a widow, and I am jobless,” she continued. “I have five children, and there was nothing I could do to feed them, so I asked Jesus what I should do for a living. When the announcement was made in church, the pastor appointed me to study because he knew my situation. I know that God opened up the way for me.”
Not only do they learn the ins and outs of sewing, the ladies also study the Bible; learning how to live as a follower of Christ, and apply biblical principles to their daily life and business interactions.
“Through scripture we learn God’s plan for His people,” testified Marena.
Hermonie, one of three OM team members in the south, enjoys spending time with the women.
“I give thanks to the Lord that I am able to teach them. It’s not always easy. Especially with the dialect,” she admitted. “Sometimes I use a word that shocks them. But sometimes it’s funny, and everyone just laughs.”
Previous to the course, the women did not all know each other. The hours spent together over needle and thread have made them a tight-knit group. Coming from different backgrounds and churches, they are united in their desire to learn a new skill, and provide for their families.
The group wants to start a sewing society in Ambovombe, gathering business from town and the surrounding areas.
“We have a vision,” widowed Esther explained. “We have a great desire to work together as one.”
“Pray for us,” Marena asked. “To preach the gospel with our hand crafts, not only to get money.”