Amy Bracken

Amy Bracken (Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management – SATIIM): Amy is a long-time journalist with a passion for exploring the natural world, learning about different cultures, and sharing her craft. After graduating from Columbia University’s School of Journalism in 2003, Amy moved to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she spent two years reporting for Reuters, the Associated Press and other outlets. She then split her time between Haiti and her hometown, Boston, where she worked as a freelance producer at the public radio program The World. She also spent a year in Valdez, Alaska, running the newsroom of a small radio station and reporting on ongoing effects and litigation relating to the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill. At the time of her fellowship Amy was studying for a Masters degree at the Fletcher School, Tufts University. After her fellowship Amy wrote: “I learned a lot from being in a place so culturally different from anywhere I’ve ever been. I saw little racial tension, little class distinction, little materialism, but also major problems like lack of education and economic opportunities.”

Quilting: getting the ball rolling

25 Aug

I took a long weekend in Guatemala to meet up with a friend on Rio Dulce and buy cheap quilting materials – black cloth, chalk to draw on the cloth, shiny rayon thread of many colors, scissors, needles, and wooden embroidery hoops.

I didn’t worry too much about details. Cordelia and I would find images of flora and fauna from the park, and she would draw them, since none of the women in the group said they could.

But the night before the first meeting of the Midway quilters’ club, I got a call from Cordelia saying she had to go to Belize City to address a medical issue.

I had no idea what to do. I would go to Midway alone in the hopes that someone in the group would come forward and announce that she could embroider and would teach others, and that someone with drawing skills would magically appear. Otherwise, maybe we’d just brainstorm.

But the next morning, as I was cutting the cloth into squares in the SATIIM office in Punta Gorda, Acela, SATIIM’s administrative assistant, asked what I was doing. I explained the project, and she smiled. Acela is Mopan Mayan and knows how to embroider. She said she can’t draw but her two teenage brothers can, and they were just sitting at home doing nothing all summer. So at the very last minute we had a team of four taking the SATIIM truck to Midway.

Still, it wasn’t smooth sailing when we arrived. The quilt committee secretary, Seferina, declared, “Miss, we do not want to use black cloth.” The room agreed. I weakly suggested we at least try, at least for practice, and Acela explained more strongly that I got the black cloth for a reason, because I thought it might sell. And with that the women quieted down, and Acela’s brothers got to work drawing jaguar, heron, toucan, orchids, etc. As the drawings were churned out, Acela gave instructions and got the women sewing.

By the end of two hours, women were clustered in groups, watching each other sew and laughing, really laughing. Naturally, I thought it was at my expense, but casual translators said they were making fun of each other’s embroidery skills.

If nothing else, we had created a reason for village women to come together and have a good time.

No one replied when I said, “Bye! See you next week!” but I knew they’d be there.

Posted By Amy Bracken

Posted Aug 25th, 2011

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