Sewing ministry grows confidence in Belize

Shannon CareyFountain City

A Fountain City Presbyterian Church couple is filling a need that few knew was there: the need for women in one corner of Belize to learn solid sewing and crafting skills.

Linda and Joe Schnorr have been going to Belize every year since 2005, and for many years Linda led the Fountain City Presbyterian mission trip to Los Tambos, where the church helps support the local school. Linda, who sews custom window treatments for a living, led a group of local women in light sewing and quilting bees while she was there. Then, inspiration struck. Linda saw that she could pass her professional sewing skills along to the women of Los Tambos.

“I just felt that God calls you to do something, and I felt I should teach sewing rather than lead the team,” said Linda.

Threads of Hope was founded in 2011, serving 15 women in one village. Now, 35 women from three villages around participate. While the Schnorrs normally visit Los Tambos for three weeks, this January they will undertake their longest trip yet: three months. They hope this year to help the the women learn enough to carry on the program and grow membership even when the Schnorrs can’t be there.

“It’s just amazing how it’s grown,” said Linda.

Why sewing? Linda said that while some women have considered starting a business or selling crafts at market, most of them just want the skills and equipment to make quality clothing and gifts for friends and family. Creating something nice, whether through quilting or needlepoint, can be a source of pride and confidence and give women in Belize a creative outlet. All sessions begin with Bible study, too.

“We want them to realize the skills they have and that God wants them to use that gift,” said Linda. “It’s building confidence and helping them use the skills they learn.”

While the official language in Belize is English, many of the people Joe and Linda meet are Spanish-speaking refugees from Guatemala. Their children learn English at the local school, where the government provides the curriculum and teachers, but the community has to build and maintain the building. When traveling to remote areas for sewing classes, the Schnorrs often travel on “mud” roads to places where the only electricity comes from a solar-powered battery.

“I think it’s important to realize that you’re not dealing with ignorant people,” said Joe. “You’re dealing with untrained people.”

The Schnorrs pay for their own travel, food and lodging so that church mission funds can go 100 percent to the projects in Los Tambos. Recently, church volunteers installed a water filtration system at the Los Tambos school to help cut down on childhood illness.

And the Threads of Hope ministry has borne fruit for the Los Tambos community, too. Recently, the women in Threads of Love undertook to make uniforms for the children at Los Tambos school, a total of 90 shirts and 37 skirts.

The Los Tambos community has grown to love the Schnorrs because they make an effort to be part of their lives. When a Los Tambos woman needed to receive a new prosthesis in Atlanta, Joe and Linda hosted her in their house and drove her back and forth to appointments. One woman who was a child when Linda and Joe started coming to Los Tambos, recently named her new baby “AdaLinda.”

“I really think that what we do there is an example,” said Linda. “It’s important that they see God’s love through us.”

The Schnorrs thanked the church family at Fountain City Presbyterian, as well as the proprietor of Sewing Machines Etc., who repairs their sewing machines for free. Current needs of the ministry are small sewing notions like buttons and zippers, plus money to purchase sewing machines and fabric. The Schnorrs try to purchase in Belize as many machines and as much fabric as possible to further build local relationships. They also need reading glasses of all kinds to help the women in the program who have eyesight problems.

Those interested in helping out should contact Joe and Linda Schnorr at [email protected].

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