Jessica Calderone (Siena College Class of 2017, Albany Medical College Class of 2021) recently returned from her 6-week Summer of Service to a village called Bliss near Tacloban City of the Philippines. During her six weeks, she volunteered in a government women’s shelter that serves as a safe haven for survivors of domestic abuse, sex trafficking, and violence. Jessica planned daily activities for the women and their children, focusing largely on aspects of self-care, self-empowerment, mental and emotional health, and physical exercise. With each day, she learned more of each woman’s story. Greatly impacted by the inspiring women she had met and the meaningful, trust-filled relationships she had forged, she decided that she wanted to extend her impact beyond the six weeks.
Jessica began a project, titled “Greetings from Heaven,” in which she taught the women to make bracelets and crochet items such as bookmarks, baby-sized hats, and small bow hair ties. After amassing a supply of products, she began to sell the bracelets and crocheted crafts while still in the Philippines and now back home in the United States. Sales are still ongoing. All money raised will be sent back to the women’s shelter to go towards education and their futures once they leave the shelter.
Below is a statement from Jessica on the project originally written on June 29, 2016:
“Welcome to heaven!” That’s how a friendly staff member greeted me when I first arrived to volunteer at a haven for women outside of Tacloban City, the Philippines five week ago. In my time in the Philippines, the women, their children and the staff at the women’s shelter have become my family. It’s hard to imagine leaving in a week.
How do women deal with issues of rape, incest, violence and sex trafficking? There is no simple answer. But the women and staff of Regional Haven in Palo, the Philippines and I believe that education will help. Education cannot only lead to employment and the potential escape from poverty, but also feelings of self-worth and confidence. It gives us a new purpose and new goals, and a optimist attitude towards the future.
But how will she afford an education when her family lives below the poverty line and can’t afford the materials and transportation to send her to the free public schools, or when she has a baby (or two) to care for when she is still a child herself? These are some of the problems I’ve witnessed that hold women back from education, like the women of Regional Haven where I’ve volunteered.
And so we hope that the sales from the crochet crafts and bracelets that we’ve made can help the women educate themselves, or their children. I know you don’t know these women like I do, and that they’re just a small group of individuals on the opposite side of the world facing a problem with which so many people worldwide battle. However, there’s no harm in a project or story that brings recognition to an issue, and a small but possible solution.
Crochet Bookmark $4
Crochet Hearts, Bows or Flowers $1-2″
(Please note: all bracelets are sold out, but crochet crafts are still available! Please comment on this post if you are interested in purchasing, and we will get contact you.)
***Update: Greetings from Heaven has been featured by Volunteer for the Visayans, the non-profit organization that connected Jessica to the women’s shelter, on their Facebook page. Click here to view.