The Quilting and Sewing Industry has a unique opportunity to help the women of Afghanistan better their lives, learn a life skill and assist our soldiers in winning the hearts and minds of the people. Donations of fabrics, notions, threads, supplies and treadle sewing machines will be distributed to Afghan women through our military and governmental organizations created for this purpose.

With donated products, Afghan women can learn how to sew and begin to lift themselves out of the uneducated poverty cycle they have been subjected to in their society. We can help build their self esteem and community spirit by giving them products to make clothes for their families and for sale.

The inspiration for this project began in fall 2010 when Army Master Sergeant Clara Vargas, home on two week leave from Afghanistan, stopped in to talk with Lisa Steele of Bella Fabrics in Carrollton, VA.  She and her fellow soldiers have been trying to raise funds for the Afghan people for sewing supplies.  MSGT Vargas’ battalion had just held a raffle and raised money to buy 14 old treadle machines locally and gave them to villages as communal property. Countrywide, 14 machines are not nearly enough.

Now fabrics, notions, threads and other supplies are needed so the women have something to sew with.  Clara asked if Lisa would donate any unwanted quilting or sewing products to Afghan women. Lisa immediately donated her shop’s unwanted goods and began a drive so her customers could donate from their “stashes”.
http://www.bellafabricsva.com/service-project  Amazed by the support and kindness of her customer’s generosity, Lisa thought she could make a larger impact if she asked the industry to contribute.  With assistance from Laurie Harsh from the Fab Shop Network and Rob Krieger, from Checker Distributors, Clara’s Calling was created. 

Clara’s responsibility on a Cultural Support Team was to help win the hearts and minds of the people.
http://www.soc.mil/CST/CST.html. She worked directly with Afghan women and sewing is an important need.

Our Industry’s donations reach Afghan women by coordinating with the Lamia Afghan Foundation, US State Department’s Denton Program, Military Airlift Command and ultimately our military’s Cultural Support Teams

Lisa contacted the US State Department and they told her of their Denton program which is designed to forward aid from civilian groups to the people of Afghanistan.


Then Lisa contacted Joy Danforth of Quilts of Valor, a very generous group that provides quilts for our wounded warriors. Joy referred Lisa to John & Jan Bradley (Air Force Lt General retired)
http://www.af.mil/information/bios/bio.asp?bioID=4767 in Nashville, who founded the Lamia Afghan Foundation, a civilian non-profit 501c3 organization that sends many differentl kinds of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

The Bradley’s not only airlift humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, but also work to build schools, work with soybean farming projects, sewing education, provide winter relief, nutritional support, medical supplies and school supplies. Their projects empower the Afghan people to help themselves rise from poverty. In addition they provide support to our military, particularly those serving at Forward Operating Bases (FOB)

Lamia has moved over 500,000 pounds of aid in the last two years and distributed it in many provinces. All of their donated aid moves on space available military airlift under the Denton USAID program. They had just moved 5 treadle sewing machines and Amish cabinets to Afghanistan to Paktika Province for two sewing and tailoring classes that had just begun. The timing of this coincided very well with the 14 given by Clara’s battalion.

Watch some of Clara’s experiences on You Tube
. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DTeO9heVYg

This is a grass roots effort that has no committee or directors. In Lisa’s discussions with Rob Krieger at Checker Distributors and Laurie Harsh at Fab Shop Network they outlined these objectives:

1.Ask the industry’s entire supply chain; consumers, shops, distributors and suppliers to donate sewing products and treadle machines to send to the Afghan people through government approved agencies.
2.Supply media kits to shops volunteering as “Clara’s Calling” shops to advertise and promote the program. Create flyers and posters that can be hung in shop windows to ask consumers to donate stashes. This is an ongoing effort not just a one shot and done.
3.Coordinate a marketing program to spread the word to all levels that donations are needed.
4.Participating shops will need to gather, sort, package and ship approved items to Checker Distributors.  The cost for the shipping will need to come from donations or shop fund raising efforts.  The Clara’s Calling web page will post suggestions for fundraising ideas such as quilt shows or quilt raffles.   
5.Checker will accumulate, sort and ship the products to the military air base designated by the Denton Program. Checker will donate these necessary services as Denton’s minimum weight to ship over is 2000 pounds.
6.To utilize the Lamia Afghanistan Foundation’s connections to distribute to the people.
7.The Lamia-Afghan Foundation is a 501c3 organization so donations can be claimed as a tax deduction. We give each store or business enrolling a letter head of welcoming to the program.

What to do about getting treadle machines to Afghanistan is concerning us. Almost no villages have electricity. Functioning treadle machines are a key to the plan. The cost of freight on packing and shipping older treadle machines and tables is probably equal or more than the cost of a new hand crank treadle machine. Older machines have to be packed up and travel from consumers, to possible repair, to Checker, then to the air base, then to Afghanistan. We have given thought to seeing if purchasing new treadle machines and sending them directly to the air bases for transport to Afghanistan is more cost effective. No final decision has been made.

These donations should be clean and not defaced. Our GOAL is to win the hearts and minds of the people. We have to be careful and review what we are sending over. We ask you to screen and filter through the donations that the consumers bring to your shop. Cultural sensitivity is important. Afghan culture and values are very different than our western culture. Send nothing that is battery operated or batteries themselves since these can be improvised by the Taliban for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED).

The Afghans have sensitivity to all things religious - Christian, Jew or Muslim and
no PIGS. No Christmas, Hanukah, or Halloween fabrics, books, patterns are to be included please. We DO NOT want to alienate the population with our donations. Pigs are insulting and farmyard scenes need to be excluded in fabrics, books and patterns. We do not want the Taliban to use any of our donations to alienate the people.

Solid color fabrics especially white, gray or black are what the boys are permitted to wear. The women are to have their head and face covered and usually use solid dark colors. Prints would be used for totes and bags, curtains, children’s clothes and other uses.

Clara emphasized that the Afghans have nothing now and any sewing products are welcomed. Discontinued items are fine as are fabric cuts down to a yard long.  Shops may want to consider having a service project day.  On this day time and effort can be donated to sew simple items that the Afghan women desperately need.  Jan Bradley has asked if some cloth diapers could be sewn.  Just a simple project like this could cut the instances of parasitic illness do to children sitting in the dirt.  All threads, even partially used spools are needed. Clothes made from your donated items help Afghans think of our soldiers as friends. Our soldiers benefit from giving donated items to the women and children.  The instances of stress disorders can be diminished when they feel that they have made a positive difference in the lives of the Afghan people.  The Afghan people also desperately need basic survival items such as hats, mittens, shoes, new tooth brushes, tooth paste and baby wipes.   

It is our belief that this is a very worthwhile effort. We hope you also will join in this humanitarian effort. Please call or email us with any questions. Please contact Rob at Checker Distributors before shipping anything.

Lisa Steele                                          
Bella Fabrics                                       
13478 Carrollton Blvd

Carrollton, Virginia 23314

Rob Krieger
Checker Distributors
1-419-537-1060 X615                                                 

Laurie Harsh
Fab Shop Network

What Is Needed...
Quantity Product
  Bags or Totes
  Books and Old Magazines. Vintage Women’s Home Journal with pictures.
  Cutters & Accessories
  Elastics & Cordings
  Fabric Care Products
  Fabrics especially white, gray or black but any kind can be re-dyed by them. No religious or PIGS.
  Interfacing & Stabilizers Sew In
  Knitting Supplies
  Machine Aids
  Marking Aids
  Needles - Hand
  Needles - Machine
  Needles & Accessories
  Personal Care Items
  Pins - Safety or Straight any kind
  Rulers & Accessories
  School Supplies
  Sewing Accessories
  Soaps & Cleaners
  Tailoring Aids
  Threads - Any and all colors, sizes and types
  Treadle Sewing Machine Parts for repairs of existing in country treadle machines. Belts etc.
   (Treadle Sewing Machines manually powered are in big need. They have no or little electricity.)
  Zippers any kind or size
For a listing of badly needed items, not sewing related, please check
the Lamia Afghan Foundation.
AFGHAN DONATION CHECK LIST. Use this list to “inventory” the goods products you send.
Claras Calling - Box Packing Instructions
link to YouTube