Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fleeces for Bolivian Church Women

In pink with the blue stole, Justina inspects fleeces and barters with vendors.
(Photo by Deborah Rissing)
I couldn’t help thinking of the nursery rhyme, Baa, baa, black sheep, as we shopped last week for sheep, alpaca, and llama fleeces. Instead of three bags full, we bought nine whole alpaca fleeces and two complete sheep skins for a total of about $40 US dollars.

It’s shearing time here. Once a year, farmers shear their wooly animals, and take the bales of fleece to a huge market at Kasani, a small border town that straddles Peru and Bolivia. We could have walked the eight kilometers (about four miles) from our home, but because of the massive crowds and the bulky wool, we took a minibus both ways – for about 60 cents round trip!

Textile lovers that we are, we were thrilled to learn of this market and to be able to shop there with an expert in natural fibers. Justina, Pastor Juan Paz’s wife, who taught us a lot about shopping for alpaca and sheep’s wool.

There were literally acres of alpaca, llama, and sheep fleeces and hides. They were sold raw, fresh off the animal, burs, grass bits, and dirt intact. The price per pound hinged on quality – length of fibers, and absence of knots and tangles -- and ranged from $3 to $5. By the way, the kinkier wool from the two sheep fleeces we bought, one black and one white, will be blended with the alpaca fibers during spinning to add strength.

We bought all this alpaca and wool for the women of the five Bolivian churches we serve. They’ll clean the fleeces by hand, spin it into yarn, then crochet or knit scarves, hats, stoles, slippers, leg warmers, baby clothes, hacky sack balls … for you!

When we return to the States, from November 20th to December 27th, we’ll be selling all sorts of natural-fiber, hand-made, wearable art. (To learn more, read Debbie's Blog published at her home church, the First United Methodist Church in Downers Grove in Illinois. Watch for more details in her posts there.)

Money raised in this effort will go toward the church goal of raising 20 percent, or $5,000, to help build a residential center for abandanados, extremely poor people abandoned by their families; usually these are seniors too old to work, but often children are abandoned.

This post was written by Deborah Rissing (photo courtesy of D. Rissing) and Jeffrey Wasilevich, long term Individual Volunteers, who began their two years of volunteer servie earlier in 2011. They work with Mision Fronteras in the Lake Titicaca region of Peru and Bolivia. 

To view a short video of their work, link through YouTube at Mision Fronteras.

Find out how you can serve as an Individual Volunteer through the General Board of Global Ministries.

Give to Individual Volunteers Making A Difference.

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