In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, 18 women residents of the northern town of Loíza completed a creative sewing course and, at the same time, collaborated with the public health emergency by making face masks.
The course was made possible through a donation from the Puerto Rico Community Foundation to Connecting Paths PR Inc., aimed at promoting economic activation through solidarity business self-management, the nonprofits said.
Participants received sewing machines and a certificate for having completed Connecting Paths PR Inc.’s Creative Sewing program. Connecting Paths PR Inc. is a nonprofit organization committed to social entrepreneurship for economically disadvantaged populations.
The women attended 22 classes over nine months, when they learned to operate the sewing machines, make patterns, cut, and make bags and masks, led by designer James de Colón. The initiative also had the collaboration of the Municipality of Loíza and the Del Valle AIC Church, where they took the classes.
“Of 19 participants, 18 finished. In the midst of the pandemic we’ve been able to generate five temporary jobs related to the manufacture of masks, thanks to subcontracting. We also obtained a grant to donate masks to older adults in vulnerable communities in which we have worked,” said Mabel Lassalle, fundadora y CEO de Connecting Paths PR Inc.
“This way, the risk of contagion is mitigated and the family finances of these community entrepreneurs benefit. All of the participants also made masks as part of their practice, which will be donated,” Lassalle said.
In addition to Loíza, the creative sewing curriculum has been offered since 2018 in remote communities in Adjuntas and Jayuya. Of the 18 participants, six expressed interest in developing microenterprises in this industry — in the long term, the program aims at forming a collective enterprise: service cooperative or owner-worker corporation.
They also received workshops on social-emotional skills, organization officials said.
“The Foundation’s mission is to develop the capacities of the communities through the promotion of community capital, and with this initiative we’re contributing to that goal,” said Puerto Rico Community Foundation CEO Nelson I. Colón-Tarrats.
“Human, social, physical and financial capital have been significantly impacted through this program, since they learned new skills, connected with each other, generated income, and received sewing machines to continue developing and promoting solidarity business self-management in Loíza,” he said.
The Puerto Rico Community Foundation is also developing other racial equity and community recovery initiatives in Loíza, thanks to the support of W.K. Kellogg Foundation, he said.
The initiatives seek to contribute to the integral well-being of children, youth and families from Loíza. The focus areas include access to safe housing, drinking water, renewable energy and economic development, academic and psycho-emotional support, and interruption of violence.