January 14, 2013

Peru: Crafting a Better Life

A knitting workshop in a poor neighborhood in the city of Arequipa is helping women improve their sewing skills in hopes of creating a better life for themselves and their families.

  • Life-long Skill

    El Camino’s knitting workshop, which meets once a week, helps women improve knitting and sewing techniques.

  • Gathering Place

    The ladies meet in a believer’s home for the workshop and help contribute toward paying the woman’s electrical bill.

  • Production Value

    Previous trainer Silvia examines a sweater made by one of the ladies. The goal is to improve with each project so the ladies can produce quality goods to sell.

  • Doing Life Together

    Women enjoy chatting and sharing in each other lives while they are working in a place where they feel loved and accepted.

  • New Projects

    The ladies have started working on a new project, making these colorful purses out of yarn and recycled plastic bags.

In a poor neighborhood in the northern outskirts of Arequipa, eleven ladies gather on Saturday afternoons to hand-make gloves, scarves, baby hats, and purses. This knitting workshop, held at a believer’s home, was started a year ago by El Camino Church as a way to minister to women in this area known as “Ciudad de Dios” or “City of God”.

Patty Arfinengo, a believer from El Camino Church, serves as the coordinator of the ministry. Church members visit homes and hold bi-weekly meetings for kids, youth, and adults, looking for opportunities to share the love of Christ while getting to know families on a deeper level.

The knitting workshop helps women improve their knitting and sewing techniques so that they can sell their products and learn small business skills in hopes of owning their own workshops someday. So far, they have made $370, which has been used to buy materials for new projects. The group also pays their trainer, Laura, who has 25 years of experience working in textiles. She enjoys helping the ladies and gives them good counsel about how to run a successful business. “Laura wants the women to be well trained, so they can have their own workshops and help each other economically,” Arfinengo said.

The women have recently started a second project using yarn and recycled plastic bags to make purses and bags. They have developed standard templates for the bags in order to work more efficiently. The purses sell for approximately $12 each, of which the ladies earn just less than half that amount for each bag produced; they earn more per bag as quality improves. The rest of the profit per bag goes toward materials and other costs of the workshop. The ladies also contribute a small amount (around 35 cents) per session to help pay for the electrical bill of the home they work in.

While teaching women a new skill set is important, the workshop also provides a time of relaxation and the opportunity for friendships to grow. “Many of the women are shy,” Arfinengo said, “but they are content when they are here and enjoy the time together.” Sessions begin with a prayer. About half way through, they break to have something to eat and drink and also to study Bible verses. Values that help create successful businesses such as teamwork, honesty, and responsibility are discussed.

“The workshop is a blessing and a channel through which the ladies learn more of God, see His faithfulness to them, and allows them to share their needs and joys with each other,” said Arfinengo. “It’s an enjoyable time for all!”

-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
-Photos provided by Patty Arfinengo