Trauma Healing Through Quilt Making
Peace Through Pieces is a ministry of North Seattle Friends Church, in conjunction with Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services of Burundi (THARS) and Friends in Burundi, and Congo Yearly Meetings. Patty Federighi is the director.
First Corinthians 12:7 in The Message says “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is; everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits.”
Through our Peace Through Pieces quilting ministry we are using quilting as healing art for women who are victims of torture and sexual violence in central Africa. A quilt is creative; a quilt is warm; a quilt brings comfort and blessing and healing. A quilt is beautiful. A quilt shows care and love. Each of these attributes of a quilt is also an attribute of our loving God. Quilt making offers plenty of opportunity to show the world who God is. Here are some of the things we have learned from this work.
We’ve learned that God works mightily in the ordinary. The smallest seemingly most insignificant things can grow the kingdom—a mustard seed, yeast, an everyday thing such as quilt making. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush sending him to release the captive Israelites Moses asked, “Why should they believe me? What sign can I give?” God replied, “What’s in your hand?” God used the ordinary—a shepherd’s staff— to show who he is. And he’s working through ordinary quilts in central Africa to show who he is.
We’ve learned that healing and peace come to the makers of a quilt as well as the receivers of a quilt.
We’ve learned that in Burundi when a friend is grieving or sick or troubled, a common token of comfort is to give that friend a blanket. Quilting works hand-in-hand with an already existing tradition.
We’ve learned that when people are traumatized, their left brains shut down and they operate in right brain only. One way to aid healing is to force left brain and right brain to work together. Quilting is an ideal activity to help bring about that healing— you can’t do it without engaging both left and right brain together.
We’ve learned that in Burundi if you improve the life of a woman, you improve the life of a whole village.
We’ve learned that in every village where the women we’ve trained are quilting, everyone in the village wants what they have learned. The women we are working with, women who have been raped, and rejected by their family and community—sometimes even forced to live out in the bush —have not only been restored to their homes through the efforts of THARS, they have gone from being victims, essentially the “lepers” of their communities, to being celebrities.
And finally, from the workshop we directed in 2008, we are seeing the healing of tribal hatred. When the 20 women gathered for the week-long training, some were arrogant and rude and directed hurtful, hateful things towards the Twa women who were the teachers. By the end of the week, they were apologizing to each other, saying how much they appreciated their teachers and saying that even though they arrived from different backgrounds and different communities, they leave that place as friends. God is using quilt making to heal hatred among the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa tribes of central Africa
A folk tale called “Stone Soup” tells of two battered and starving soldiers trudging wearily through their war-ravaged countryside, begging for food, lodging, boots and clothing to sustain them on their journey. The impoverished peasants, jaded by many years of such requests, coldly denied any assistance, saying they had nothing to share. Undaunted, these charming fellows persuaded first one, then another household to contribute just a small amount of whatever they did have toward a mysterious soup. It was made from worthless stones, and, they promised, would nourish the whole village. Word got around, everyone shared something, and at the end of the day there was a hearty meal for all to enjoy plus music, dancing and great celebration. The soldiers’ needs were generously met; no one had given more than he could afford to give; a spirit of community had been revived; and most importantly, people had acted on their natural sense of compassion.
In our village called Seattle, we have a unique opportunity to put what we call the “stone soup principle” to work to help out some people who are far from home and in crisis: the patients of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UWMC, Children’s Hospital and their families. As quilters, we know the silent but powerful statement of concern that a quilt can give. It is a most effective way to reach out to someone who is in a stressful situation. So we simply make quilts and give them anonymously to new patients as they enter the hospital for treatment. They warm and brighten the hospital rooms and hallways. They quite literally comfort and cheer the patients who receive them. Hospital personnel tell us that our cheerful quilts make a big difference.
Let’s be honest. The making of a quilt requires large amounts of time and talent; two of our most scarce and valued resources. The Stone Soup Ministry gets the job done by dividing the work of making quilts into smaller segments and asking for only a small commitment from each quilter. It’s working marvelously! Volunteers working in the studio of North Seattle Friends Church begin the process by sorting through our mountain of donated fabrics and coming up with 14 that look good together. We cut them into the size pieces required and then bundle them up into a kit, complete with simple instructions. Then a volunteer quilter sews together the blocks and joins them into one gorgeous 56″ by 70″ nap-size quilt top. More volunteers layer and pin-baste, machine-quilt, and finally bind, label and wash the quilt. The approximately 12 hours required to make each of these beautiful Log Cabin quilts are divided among 4 to 6 people so no one has to give too much time.
The Christian directive to “comfort the afflicted” is shared by people of all spiritual traditions. We know that our quilts, given freely to cancer patients are indeed a source of both physical and spiritual comfort. The surprise has been in the blessed and enriched lives of the quilt-makers!
You can help too
Find out how you can help in these areas:
- Sorting and organizing the fabric collection
- Choosing fabrics for quilts and assembling kits
- Publicity tasks: distributing quilts to guilds, organizing satellite groups
- Soliciting fabric donations (100% cotton fabrics are gratefully accepted)
- Joining a work party, 7pm on the third Wednesday of the month
- Doing minimal machine quilting and applying binding by machine (very simple)
- Hand-stitching binding to the back side of the quilt, fun for groups
- Washing and labeling quilts
- Delivering quilts to the hospital volunteer services
Thank you to Stone Soup Quilters for carrying on this important work!