The Journey of a Sewing Machine

Recycle Pots and Pans recently received an old Singer sewing machine and we recycled it to the Socially Responsible Sweatshop who takes them to Kenya to empower women in outlying villages. Here is more about this wonderful organization. Thank you Bridgette, for telling their story.

The Socially Responsible Sweatshop (SRS) is a non-profit charitable organization that repurposes landfill-destined textiles into useful, beautiful items. Proceeds from their sales provide funds for food-insecure communities and social justice projects. The volunteers of SRS strive to be helpful while demonstrating responsible stewardship of the Earth and the protection of its environment. I was lucky enough to meet with Mary Ann Kasper and Lonnie Hawks at the Haymaker Farmer’s Market in downtown Kent, Ohio, and learn more about their nonprofit.

The Socially Responsible Sweatshop’s mission is to extend its financial resources to other causes that are seen as fit and feasible. They work to sustain the Earth and the hungry.

Socially Responsible Sweatshop works with Bonyo’s Kenya Mission and Kent State University School of Nursing to help people in Western Kenya. The women of SRS gifted a refurbished 1920s Singer sewing machine to the women of Kenya. 

Prior to its donation, the sewing machine had quite the journey: It is said that this 1920s Singer was the shop’s first sewing machine. Kasper wanted to help those in need get more fresh food, so she went to a thrift store and bought the old Singer machine. Kasper started by making yoga mats, but once she started gathering a team, the opportunities were endless. Revenue from the items made was used to purchase and provide food.

The Socially Responsible Sweatshop was inspired to help set up a “sister sweatshop” at the Mama Pilista Bonyo Memorial Health Center, which is an ongoing project. They repurpose all the items they receive, which keeps fabric, sewing machines, and other reusable items out of landfills, saves money, and protects the environment.

An abundance of used towels and bedsheets were used for upcycling needs for the Kenyan women. It is said that “having the means to make their own reusable menstrual pads out of affordable and accessible materials will give the young women in the villages around the clinic a better chance to be self-reliant, remain in school, and break the circle of poverty caused by lack of education.”

The group’s efforts to produce work sustainably, while also working towards funding food insecurity programs and raising awareness of social justice issues, make the organization important and unique. They have a large impact locally and it is inspiring to see them impacting other communities as well. The success of their work has led the organization to focus its efforts on organizations in other countries, just as they are in Kenya.

I am grateful I was able to talk to Mary Ann and Lonnie about their non-profit,  Socially Responsible Sweatshop. My Photojournalism class project turned out to be more memorable than I ever imagined it would. I took a picture of them from afar, and approached them afterward, asking them, “Could you tell me more about your non-profit?” Listening to them, hearing what they do, and learning all about their organization inspires me to be a better person for myself and for others.

What are some ways you are able to help out in your community? Sometimes you might have to take a deeper look, but you might find something that just might change your outlook. 

Quotes from: 

Managing the Monthlies, Kenya-style

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