Threads - Jul 2023 Thrift and Peace

A woman sitting at a sewing machine

Manitoba — Jul 2023

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Audio file

Playing time: 14:01

On this episode of Threads, you'll hear from Kristine Heinrichs, MCC Manitoba Thrift Coordinator, her recent learning trip to Colombia and the connections of thrift and peace in Colombia.

Listen in as our host Kyle Rudge talks to Kristine Heinrichs, MCC Manitoba Thrift Coordinator, about her recent learning trip to Colombia and the connections of thrift and peace in Colombia.

Threads, formerly known as Word and Deed, was established in April 2007. It is a 15-minute radio program by KR Words featuring the work of MCC in Manitoba and around the world. Threads broadcasts on CFAM AM 950, CHSM AM 1250 and CHRB AM 1220 at 8:45 am on the first Sunday of the month.

Audio Transcription:

Kyle Rudge (00:02):

It begins with a single thread woven through other thread, and then another and another until we have a single piece of fabric. That fabric is stretched, cut and stitched together with another, just like it. This process is repeated over and over and over until we have a beautiful tapestry that all began with a single thread. Welcome to an MCC Threads, where we look closely at how our stories in Manitoba weave together with the stories of MCC and its partners around the world.

Kristine Heinrichs (00:52):

Ideas and the throughlines of peace are something that is felt on a political level. It's in the art and the galleries and the museums. It's kind of everywhere. And to be an organization where our niche is peace building and peacemaking, makes Colombia a really ideal fit for the work of MCC.

Kyle Rudge (01:15):

"Dad! I don't have any shorts that fit." That statement is an all-too-common phrase for my context these days. My kids just keep growing and in the back of my mind, I know anything I buy today won't fit come the start of the next school year. So buying new? Uggghhh. So it's off to the thrift store we go. And it's quite nice that the MCC Thrift shop is about five blocks from our house. However, shopping MCC Thrift is more than just a cost-effective way of getting clothes that fit for the summer only to be re-donated in just a few days because the kids in your life had that giant growth spurt. No, it has a deeper context and a world-changing impact.

Kristine Heinrichs (01:57):

Hi, my name is Kristine Heinrichs. I'm the thrift coordinator for MCC Manitoba, and I work out of the Winnipeg office.

Kyle Rudge (02:03):

As a provincial coordinator for Manitoba's MCC Thrift, Kristine has to wear many hats from trainer to proverbial firefighter, to so many things in between as it pertains to MCC Thrift in Manitoba. However, for a couple of weeks already this year, she was unavailable to do any of that, and instead was learning more about what your support of MCC Thrift actually does to help foster peace in contexts outside our own.

Kristine Heinrichs (02:33):

I was in Colombia from April 17th until April 27th.

Kyle Rudge (02:42):

The reason Kristine went to Colombia was for something called a learning tour.

Kristine Heinrichs (02:46):

Learning tours ultimately connect MCC constituents and supporters, people who are able to bring those messages back to the MCC constituent groups here in Canada, to the programs that they're supporting internationally. I mean, in my province we have thrift shops that are partners in the same way that we have international partners. And so we're connecting the partners who are sending us money to the partners who are receiving the money, and they're able to experience through us, through our stories, through the experiences that we've had, the impact of their engagement with MCC's work.

Kyle Rudge (03:32):

And this particular learning tour was very specific. It was, given the context of this episode thus far I suspect you can imagine, very MCC Thrift specific.

Kristine Heinrichs (03:42):

Thrift specific meaning that we were a group of thrift support roles. So we had a thrift support role from Ontario, two from Manitoba, so a manager and myself, three from Saskatchewan, two from Alberta and two from BC. Ooh, I might be getting this wrong, but I think that's right. I was not familiar with the Colombian context. I'd never been there before. Colombia is a very diverse country. It's a very biodiverse country. Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world. It has the most different kinds of like plants and stuff like that. Isn't that interesting? So it's - and like fruit! So like, you'd be like in Colombia eating some fruit and they were like, “you can't get this anywhere else.” And they don't export it. It's just like a thing you pick off a tree here. It was so bizarre. Yeah. And like you'd have like this juice and they'd be like, that's that thing over there. And you'd be like, what on earth? And you can't, you can't find it here.

Kyle Rudge (04:51):

While extremely biodiverse, there's even more to their cultural context that Kristine experienced.

Kristine Heinrichs (04:57):

It's also a place that sort of requires the understanding that it's been in conflict since conquest and that the conflict sort of shapes everything within the country. And, and saying that it's important to hold within that the nuance that you could walk down the street and have no idea that this country's in conflict. You're not walking past people wearing military uniforms. You're not necessarily feeling unsafe, though you may be told you are. There's definitely like the global south feel of like gates and barbed wire, but that's pretty common in places that aren't North America. So it's a diverse place. It's a colorful place. This is sort of the context that we're entering into when we think about Colombia.

Kyle Rudge (06:01):

So how does shopping at, volunteering at, or even working at MCC thrift make a difference in Colombia?

Kristine Heinrichs (06:07):

When we're talking about peace in Mennonite circles, it does feel very insular and when you’re in Colombia peace is something that's everywhere. It's something that everyone's thinking about because of the lack of it. So when we were engaging with projects through MCC and Colombia, we were looking at specifically the topic and the pillar of peace within MCC and those projects looked like, advocacy on a government level. This could be having a group of lawyers who were working with people who have been displaced by paramilitary groups in more coastal areas of Colombia writing down their stories and doing something called memory keeping, which would allow for them to provide the appropriate statistics when the government sends up the false statistics about what's happening within the country. It could be at the educational level of interfamilial violence. So it could be teaching kids what it means to be safe within their own household or it could be services through churches like offering children programming to get them into some form of education system when they don't have access to schools because of the lack of governmental support. So peace looks like a number of different things and those are some of the projects that thrift supports through its raising of funds in Colombia.

Kyle Rudge (07:53):

Knowing about the projects is one thing, but finding the storied threads of people who are impacted by the projects is entirely another.

Kristine Heinrichs (08:01):

Yeah, I think about church in Bogota and young woman named Yankis. Yankis is a Venezuelan migrant. She is someone who left Venezuela after experiencing an amputation of one of her limbs. She was unable to access the medical care that she needed and her and her daughter made the very dangerous journey to Bogota. Yankis when she was welcomed into the church, which is a Mennonite church, a project of MCC's work, she was offered support through a micro loan. She was able to sort of make a decision about where she wanted to spend this money, and she purchased a sewing machine and she kind of has her own little business making children's clothing. It's actually, it's not like simple stuff. She has these little like sweatsuits and she's got all this fabric going on. I think this is a really good example though about how development works. MCC offers funding to the churches with the trust that the local partners are the most aware of the circumstances of the people that they're supporting. And the development work is when someone like Yankis receives the funding she needs to purchase equipment to sustain herself. And now she's able to sell that sewing machine, get more advanced equipment, and she is actually a mentor in the church of new Venezuelan migrants who are flowing over the border still. So it's really an exciting story about the way that development empowers people to be able to sustain themselves after dangerous journeys and times where they haven't been able to experience peace.

Kyle Rudge (10:03):

Stories like this happen all because of me and others like me that have made the decision to shop at, volunteer at, or even work at MCC Thrift. The learning, however, isn't just from visiting projects and talking directly to the people who are impacted, but even in the side conversations with MCC staff that work in these context, every day we see those threads of peace.

Kristine Heinrichs (10:28):

I'm thinking about one of our national staff in Colombia, and I'm gonna call her Anna, and Anna one day we were having pizza in some little place in Bogota and she was talking to us about the way that she transitioned from her educational experience into the field. She's someone who's, I mean like the epitome of experience. She's kind of calm and cool, but she's also like very Colombian in that she was born outside of Bogota in more of a rural area. She said, when I was a social worker, I was taught a lot of theories about peace and peaceful practices and peace building. And when I'm in communities, I think about these theories and the way they get applied to people's lives. How do you build peace when people are hungry? How do you build peace when a mother is walking through town and sees the militant that killed her son every day. She made us think about how we apply peaceful practices. This is where your theoretical ideologies about the way that peace building is implemented, meets this practical contextual implications of people's lives. It's extremely difficult to invite people who feel hatred and anger and who are experiencing poverty to enter into conversations about peace. But peace is ultimately a pathway to dissolving anger and poverty.

Kyle Rudge (12:06):

And after all of that, what is Kristine bringing back to MCC Thrift?

Kristine Heinrichs (12:15):

Yeah, I think that I am motivated to help management teams understand the ways that they can trust the process of international development, because that's been a theme in my work the whole time I've been working with MCC Thrift, is a confusion, maybe lack of trust, about the way that we offer help sustainably in international environments. I can tell them that like the international staff are some of the most capable people I've ever met with their knowledge about the context, with their ability to make complex decisions in their ability to navigate stressful circumstances and be able to put the money that they're raising into action in international settings. It's inspiring for sure.

Kyle Rudge (13:30):

MCC Threads is produced by KR Words with story assistance from Jason Dueck. Thank you to Kristine for taking time out of your busy thrift schedule to share some of your experience with the work that MCC and its partners are doing in Colombia. And for all of you, just a reminder, August 17th is National Thrift Shop Day, and I do know that within the context of Manitoba that there will be many an MCC thrift shop celebrating. See you there. I'm Kyle Rudge and this is MCC Threads.

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