Photo above: Before Jerisa Muro went to sewing class, she had never been to school. She hopes to start her own tailoring business. “If I acquire good skills here, then I can send my children to school,” she says. After the program, Jerisa will receive a loan and a subsidized sewing machine to start a tailoring business. The income will help pay for her children’s school fees. Muro is shown holding her two-year-old daughter, Ester Keji, at the sewing class near her home in Juba, South Sudan.
Countless stitches are part of the MCC story.
United States, 2011. MCC photo/Silas Crews
When MCC volunteers look at pieces of fabric, they see a way to make a difference. Their incredible patience turns the pieces into stunning quilts. Relief sales auction the quilts across the U.S. and Canada to support MCC’s work. In 2018, quilt auctions raised over $987,000. Anna Stauffer, Miriam Witmer, Electa Mohler and Ruth Rudy (left to right) are shown working on a quilt in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.
The story began with handmade clothes.
Southern Russia (present-day Ukraine), 1923. MCC photo/Arthur W. Slagel
In the 1920s, people in southern Russia (present-day Ukraine) were bearing the consequences of years of unrest. The Mennonite community in the U.S. and Canada came together in response and MCC was born. Congregations collected money, gathered food and sewed clothing. Volunteers are shown unpacking a shipment of six railway cars in Alexandrovsk (present-day Zaporizhzhia) filled by the generosity of their sisters and brothers across the world.
Sewing quickly became an important part of MCC’s work.
United States, 1959. MCC photo
In the 1940s, centers were set up to gather clothing in response to the Second World War. "Clothing for relief" publications formalized the appeal for clothing. MCC circulated current needs and standards for durable and high-quality items. “‘We say it with clothing’ could well be our slogan,” says a clothing relief report from 1944. “We say with clothing what cannot be said with flowers, a letter, or a wire, or even with money, but ‘In the Name of Christ’, with clothing.” Volunteers (names unknown) are shown packing clothing at the center in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.
Women played a crucial role in sending hand-sewn items.
United States, 1964. MCC photo/Betty Pauls
Women were largely responsible for the impressive response to the appeals — sewing or collecting 250 tons of clothing in a year. Laura Hershberger (left) and Lydia Funk are shown packing blankets in Newton, Kansas.
Sewing helps others in need,
Mozambique, 1985. MCC photo/Jim Shenk
When drought and conflict struck northern Mozambique in the 1980s, more than 40 women came together to help. They met twice weekly to sew clothing for their fellow Mozambicans. One room was not enough to host everyone, so they spilled into the courtyard.
is a source of income,
Cambodia, 2019. MCC photo/Matthew Lester
Learning to sew opens the door to opportunity for high school students like Orn Chanthy (front right). She can now supplement her family’s income and will be able to rely on her new skills when she graduates. MCC programs around the world teach sewing and small business skills to empower people to support themselves through their livelihoods.
and is a way for people to take care of their families.
West Bank, 1960. MCC photo/Ernest Lehman
Pregnant refugee women in Jericho, West Bank, learned how to sew for their infants through MCC. Each mother would receive a layette she had made herself, along with other necessities added by MCC. A Palestinian refugee woman (name not known) is shown sewing a layette for her child with assistance from MCC worker Lois Ruegg.
Many people learn to sew,
Paraguay, 1955. MCC photo
A woman (name unknown) uses one of the sewing machines sent to Mennonite colonies in Paraguay by California churches in 1954. Sewing machines were particularly valuable to mend clothing that had worn out quickly due to sweat, heat and frequent washing. When the sewing machines were distributed, people exclaimed in German, “Das ist einfach wunderbar!” (That’s simply wonderful!).
whether they are thirteen…
Canada, 2011. MCC photo/Chai Bouphaphanh
Students like Liam Johnston (right) can learn how to knot a comforter at the MCC Saskatchewan Center. The center hosts school groups to provide hands-on opportunities to learn about MCC’s work. Agnes Wiebe, a regular volunteer at the center, assists him in tying a knot.
United States, 1984. MCC photo/Jim King
At 93 years of age, Alta Erb knots a comforter at the MCC Material Resources Center in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, where she spent two weeks working as a volunteer. “I never had time before I was 90,” she said. Although she had never been to the center before, she had sewn comforters at home. When asked how many comforters she has made over the years, she replied, “Oh I have no idea! I know that I've done 59 since September.”
Sewing brings people together…
Canada, 2007. MCC photo/Joanie Peters
Volunteer Laura Nafziger (left) and Krista (last name withheld) work together on a comforter for MCC at Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario. This MCC project gave incarcerated women the opportunity to learn employable skills. “I’m here [in prison] because I took a life,” said Krista. “I joined the program so that I can give something back to the world and to be at peace with myself.”
Germany, 1949. MCC photo
An MCC community center in the Kreuzberg section of Berlin, Germany, hosted a sewing circle for local women. They gathered twice a month to sew and knit clothing for people in need in their community.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2004. MCC photo/Larry Guengerich
Children in a Sunday school class in Kitchener, Ontario, worked together to sew a comforter. Jan Adams (left) brought the class this picture of Amira Martic (right) shown in a camp for displaced people near Zenica, Bosnia. She is wrapped in the comforter the class made. One of the students, Rebecca Bauman, remembered that she and the others had no idea who would receive the comforter or even where it would go. “I just wanted that person to like it, whoever got it,” she said.
and leaves a tangible legacy.
France, 2014. MCC photo/Nina Linton
Every year, volunteers sew and donate many beautiful handmade comforters. They stand the test of time and leave a tangible legacy of compassion.
Myriam Hege still has one of the comforters that her father received decades ago. During the Second World War, volunteers saw the need and responded by sending comforters to people fleeing the fighting. Myriam’s father received two comforters from MCC among other items.
“That blanket was some symbol of solidarity and that there were brothers and sisters thinking of them,” says Myriam. “It's really symbolic of a link between people.”