Forum: Quilts for Empowerment

For the 10:15 am Forum on November 17, we welcome Dr. Mary Ann McCammon, president of Quilts for Empowerment. Seven panels created by women from Kenya who have built new lives after surviving fistulas, a women’s health condition common in developing countries, will be on display. At the Forum, Mary Ann will share stories about the quilters as well as the process they used to create the exhibit.

Do you ever wonder if the donations you make to St. Michael’s make a difference in the lives of other people? Every year, the church sets aside a small percentage of pledged income to help meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals throughout the world. The Outreach & Justice Council selects nonprofits vetted by its members to receive small donations of usually $500. One small nonprofit that St. Michael’s has supported for four years is Quilts for Empowerment. This is an organization that works to empower women in Kenya who have suffered the consequences of living with a fistula through teaching them an income-producing art form—story-quilting—and then finding venues through which to sell the beautiful products that the women make. This simple approach has improved the lives of a growing group of women and young girls and provided them a community of support. It has also emboldened the women to reach out to share their story in their communities and now around the world.

The women have created a series of seven story quilts that tell their experience of having a fistula, including the emotional suffering that occurs when they are rejected by their families as well as the joy of healing and finding support and solidarity with other survivors. These panels form the heart of the Fistula Art Exhibition, funded by the Fistula Foundation in partnership with Quilts for Empowerment; the goal is to raise awareness of this condition and its impact on women in developing countries. Eventually, the exhibit will make its way from Portland to New York City to be shown at the UN in 2020.