Indeed, together we can make a difference! And together is exactly how the Vocational Sewing Center came to be at Josue Rogelio Ibarra School. This Center evolved from joint efforts and funding by MEDUCA (Panama’s Educational Program), the Bocas School Project under the umbrella of the One World Children’s Fund, and BESO (Bocas Educational Service Organization) who joined hands to make the Center a reality. In the Opening Ceremony held on October 16, Kai Frykman of Isla Carenero, representing One World Children’s Fund, opened the Ceremony by presenting a plaque dedicating the Vocational Sewing Center to the memory of her late husband, Rob Steig, who for many years gave so generously of his time and love to serving the educational needs of Bocas children.
Designed to teach young women sewing skills, not only to make clothing for themselves and their family, but also to improve family finances by making items to sell, this program is ably managed by Virginia Vasquez, Director of the Bocas School Project, and the School’s Principal, Dora Reina. David and Margo Carey, also of Carenero, who have worked diligently over the years with One World Children’s Fund and the Bocas School Project, were instrumental in renovating an old storage room at the School, putting in ceiling, floors, sewing tables and shelves and the acquisition of sewing machines. Ten sewing machines can be operated either by foot pedal (treadle) or by electricity, and the Center also proudly sports 3 heavy duty machines targeted for students who will be learning upholstery skills.
The students learn quickly under the guidance of their teacher, Esperanza de Grenald, an excellent seamstress herself. The targeted group for the Vocational class is young women a 18 to 21 who are not bound for higher education but who need skills to earn money for themselves and their family. This class meets Monday through Friday from 3-6 pm. Younger students who attend regular school classes in the morning can take advantage of the Vocational Sewing Center facilities, also taught by Ms. de Grenald, as a part of the Home Economics curriculum. Women older than 21 are accepted into the afternoon Vocational class if there are vacancies. Each student provides her own material and pays $5 per week to cover the cost of thread and other supplies.
Ms. Grenald is teaching her students to take body measurements and with these to make patterns for clothing, an exciting project for these young ladies. Margo Carey will be taking a number of student-made items such as pillows, pillow cases, and appliance covers to sell at a fund-raising dinner in the US. Donations of fabric or money for fabrics are most welcome and can be dropped off at the office of Virginia Vasquez, just past the Police station in Bocas Town.