3 October, 2005
MAHWAH, N.J. – The quality and ease-of-use of Janome sewing machines have made a difference in the lives of sewers, embroiderers and quilters around the world. Thanks to the tireless efforts of two women in Wisconsin, Janome machines are also changing the existence for marginalized women in Africa.
Rosemary Wissink and Cindy Mickelson are the owners of Stitchin' Sisters, a quilt pattern business in Fall Creek, Wisconsin. Their mission statement maintains they want to nurture the need for women to connect with other women, promote individual creativity within women, and provide an avenue for all women to express their talents and dreams.
Three years ago, the partners became aware of Amani ya Juu, an African Women's Refugee Ministry in Nairobi, Kenya. Amani ya Juu, which means "higher peace" in Kiswahili, is a training project in sewing and marketing for African women who have been affected by wars and ethnic conflicts. The purpose of the project is to give African women an opportunity to improve their sewing and marketing skills so they may be able to provide for the needs of their families.
A subsequent intention is to sow seeds of peace in the hearts of these women through Christian principles of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Wissink and Mickelson created several quilt pattern projects for the women of Amani, and raised enough funds to purchase and donate four Janome Jem Gold electric sewing machines, which at just 12 pounds, were compact and light enough to fit into luggage, yet still contained all the quality sewing and quilting functions of a big machine.
The women of Stitchin' Sisters traveled to the mission with their patterns and the Janome Jems, which replaced worn out treadle machines. The women of Wisconsin worked alongside the women of Amani, equipping the refugees with skills to create marketable products that would allow them to sustain themselves and their families.
Wissink, who has remained in touch with Amani, reports that the four machines are still working well, each of them sewing six hours a day. The Janome Jems have greatly improved the women’s abilities and production over the past three years. Wissink also learned that as the women of the Amani ministry began to enjoy the fruit of their labor, they responded with compassion to other groups of women. They gave of their earnings to women in Kigali, Rwanda, and to women in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. These two groups became firmly established and have since become Amani ya Juu sister centers.
Wissink traveled earlier this spring with her two daughters and daughter-in-law to the Amahoro ava Hejuru sister center in Kigali, Rwanda. This time she was able to bring eight sewing machines, including several Janome Jem Platinum models, and the Janome 712T Treadle, which allowed the women to sew with no electrical power. True to the spirit of Amani, the Rwandan women immediately donated two of the machines to their African sisters in Burundi and three of the machines to the Kenyan center, which currently serves more than fifty women.
Wissink has become passionate to continue helping her "stichin sisters" in Africa. Her hope is to return next year and bring even more Janome machines with her, with the realization that the more sewing machines she brings, the more women whose lives can be changed. She persistently fundraises for the organizations year round, accepting fabric, product, and financial donations, realizing that the more sewing machines she and her partner can bring, the more women they can teach and help. Her partner Mickelson is expanding their world reach and recently took two more Janome Jems to a Bolivian girls' orphanage.
Janome is proud to play a role in these enriching foundations. To learn more, or to make a donation, visit www.amaniafrica.org.
Janome America is the largest subsidiary of Janome Sewing Machine Company of Japan, which produces more than one million sewing machines annually as well as a line of related sewing products and embroidery software. Janome America is committed to providing high quality sewing machines for every consumer.