I met this beautiful young woman named Charity at the work site where we were building a church in her community. Like us, and like many other local volunteers, she was there to help carry cement and blocks when needed. Charity told me how Boko Haram had killed her father, and forced the whole family (mother and seven children) to watch. After that, the family fled to safety, and are living in Pegi, a community on the outskirts of the capitol, Abuja, where many other EYN members from Chibok are living. They long to go back to their land, where they have work and familiar culture, but it is still too dangerous. So for now, they are just waiting.
At the second camp, when I saw a young girl at a sewing machine, it "clicked" for me: the reason I had come to Nigeria, to help bring work to women in these camps, something to fill their hearts, minds and spirits. I began to think and ask around about how best to start a project in Nigeria to make things to sell in the US.
A friend who works at a Church of the Brethren nursing home had talked to me about the popularity of rice-filled pillows that could be heated in the microwave to provide a natural heating pad, or kept in the refrigerator to provide a cold pack for injuries. I decided this would be a good project to start with, as they are easy to make, and would be beautiful made from the gorgeous African Batik cotton that is everywhere in Nigeria. We could start by selling them at nursing home gift shops. I decided to call this the Lafiya Collection, Lafiya being a common Nigerian greeting, wishing health in body, mind and spirit.
At the church guest house where I was staying, on the first floor there was a tailoring workshop, where Tailor Jonathan was teaching several young women his sewing skills. At the advice of the Director of Women's Ministries, I decided to start the project here. Together, Jonathan and I worked out a design for two types of rice pillow (in 95 degree heat, it was hard to get the idea of a heating pad across!), and a walker bag. Also, I decided to have these women make infinity scarves and headbands that I usually source from Uganda.