Wanted: bags for Africa

Gayle with some of the fabric bags.
Gayle with some of the fabric bags.

ESOL tutor Gayle Pearson wants help making fabric bags to be taken to Africa. She tells Annette Taylor more.

“It came about because I wanted to do something for a young volunteer who had helped me every week for about nine months,” says Gayle.

The volunteer was Abby Fisher, 20, who came in three or four times a week to help teach English to former refugees where Gayle works at English Language Partners.

Abby, who has just been won the youngest Volunteer of the Year at the Waikato Volunteer Excellence Awards was returning to Africa.

“She had been teaching English and health studies to young students living in a rural village in Malawi, loved it and decided to return in July. She had been truly outstanding helping me in my class, and I wanted to do something for her in return.

“So I asked if there was something that might be useful, thinking she might like a box or two of pencils, and she said the children really needed bags to put their school books in.”

It turned out that the students, aged from eight to 13, shared bags, which meant all the books went home with one individual, making it hard for the others to do their homework. Simple fabric bags would make all the difference.

“So I said I could make some, and asked how many students were there. And she said 80! She was absolutely delighted at the thought – so I need 80 bags before the end of September.”

After a working bee at her house in Gordonton, Gayle has 30 bags now, but would be delighted if anyone would like to help make some more.

“Abby’s mother is travelling to see her daughter in October – they plan to travel around Africa a bit – and has offered to take the completed bags with her. So we just need to get the bags made!”

Gayle says they are not hard to make – “it’s sewing in a straight line really. Three sides with a tunnel along the top for the draw string to go in. We’re going to make them similar to duffel bags, so they can be carried.”

A pattern is available, and she even has some material available. “I started some in plain cotton, but that’s possibly a bit light weight, so I had to line them. Medium weight material is good, even old curtain material works well.”

Op shops can be a good source of material. Finding the best draw string has been a bit harder – “Ribbon isn’t strong enough, white cotton tape is good, I’ve been using whatever I can find at home.”

And if she ends up with too many? “There will be a limit to how many bags Abby’s mother can take, but this is a school, there will be other students who will have a similar need. We’d get them there, some way.”

• Anyone wishing to help, can email number 8 Network who will pass details on to Gayle.

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