Laura Burns

Laura Burns (The Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management - SATIIM): For her undergraduate studies, Laura attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she majored in International Studies and Environmental Studies. At the time of her fellowship, Laura was studying International Development at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, Denver University, with a concentration in Environmental, Sustainable Development in Latin America and Humanitarian Assistance. Laura has volunteered for sustainable ecotourism in Costa Rica, and In Ecuador for Fundación Runa, a fair trade organic tea company. After her fellowship Laura wrote: "The best aspect of my fellowship was, by far, working with the women of Santa Teresa. I feel very fortunate that I was able to spend time with the women. I was reminded that what I enjoy most is really talking to people, listening to what they have to say, and sharing it with others. I was reminded that sometimes, it just takes a person willing to share that story, to make someone feel great."


06 Jul

Anyone that knows me marginally well knows that I am the furthest thing from crafty. In Girl Scouts, I managed to burn myself on a hot glue gun. In high school, I accidently glued my hands to various objects with super glue…multiple times. In what I thought was a final test of my crafting abilities, in high school I was in charge of the scrapbook for my synchronized swim team. That’s right, the person least equipped to spearhead the project spent countless hours cutting, gluing, and coming up with marginally witty sayings to immortalize that year’s synchronized swim team. After almost a decade craft-free, I now face another craft challenge: I am spearheading a quilting project. I’ll pause for a minute to let that sink in…


Measuring Quilt Squares
Measuring Quilt Squares


It seems that every day I am hit with another reminder that I am NOT a crafty person. You need frames to do embroidery? What size needle should be used? I have to draw the template for the women to embroider? You mean that the tiny thread I had originally picked out is for sewing, and not embroidery? Can’t it be multipurpose?


Boxes of Embroidery Thread
Boxes of Embroidery Thread


Let me back up a bit. In order to raise awareness about various issues and to give a voice to the voiceless, the Advocacy Project supports quilting projects in the myriad of countries in which it works. These quilts are an opportunity for communities to express their concerns and their opinions while showcasing their culture and environment. They serve as another outlet for marginalized communities to assert themselves. In Belize, women are recruited to embroider scenes from the Sarstoon Temash National Park. To see the amazing work that the women in Midway did last year, check out the photos taken by last year’s Peace Fellow, Amy Bracken.

Last week and into this week, I have feverishly (and that is not just because the temperature has been hovering around 120 degrees farenheit in PG) been setting the foundation for this year’s quilt project. I visited the community of Santa Teresa to meet with the chairlady of the Women’s Group, Paulina, to discuss the possibility of working with that group to develop an orchid quilt. Paulina, with her absolutely beautiful embroidery work, is the exact opposite of not crafty. As Paulina proudly showed me her embroidery work, I was blown away (and that’s not just because my idea of fixing a fallen hem on a skirt is to tape it….really, that has happened since my arrival).


A home in Santa Teresa
A home in Santa Teresa


While various family members stood by, and with the help and translation of an extremely helpful SATIIM employee, Cordelia, I explained the purpose of the quilts and showed Paulina the results of last year’s quilt. Even the supposedly uninterested teenage boys in the group couldn’t help but crowd around as I brought out my computer to show them the quilt from last year. After some discussion, Paulina explained that she would talk with the other women in the women’s group and would send a message with her brother on Friday. Last Friday came with the good news that Paulina and her group were excited to join the project.

Ever since, I’ve been purchasing the various materials needed to ensure these women can produce something spectacular, including tailor’s chalk, fabric, frames, needles, and beautiful threads. My coworkers have been a mix of supportive and amused, stopping by every few minutes to see how I am getting on, and laughing at me while I mumble to myself about positivity enabling me to cut a straight line. Even the geckos in the office have been laughing at me as I struggle to measure, cut, and draw. At one point this week, as I held up yet another poorly drawn orchid, fellow intern Mari just laughed, and then took the project into her own hands. I will forever be grateful for her quilting expertise!


Santa Teresa Quilt Kits Ready to Go
Santa Teresa Quilt Kits Ready to Go


This afternoon, I’ll be heading back to Santa Teresa to meet with the embroiderers and to deliver their materials: 14 quilt kits complete with embroidery thread, needles, quilt panels with the orchid drawn on, and the photo of the orchid. I’m excited to meet the women, and am just as excited to have the project in the hands of the professionals! Keep checking back for more quilt (mis)adventures!

Posted By Laura Burns

Posted Jul 6th, 2012

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