x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Volunteers show up in force for Brest Friends charity event

As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Brest Friends organisation teamed up with Craft Land to do some good.

The organisation Brest Friends and the arts and crafts haven Craft Land teamed up to hold a 24-hour volunteer Sew-a Thon last week as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The event was hosted at Craft Land over two days, with each day seeing volunteers work for 12 hours to help make recovery bags and pillows for women with breast cancer.

Brest Friends is the brainchild of Dr Houriya Kazim, the UAE's first female surgeon and the founder of the Wellwoman Clinic in Dubai. "I wanted to give a gift to women having surgery for breast cancer," says the UAE national of the pillows and bags that were made during the event. "I thought that it would be a good idea to make a special bag that they could use to carry their surgical drains around in, as well as a small pillow to help protect their surgical incisions post-op at home. The Sew-a-Thon was completely Craft Land's idea as a way for the community to help these women in this way." The pink crescent-shaped pillows, which are designed to fit under the arm, are made of soft cotton fabric and stuffed to provide comfort.

Over 300 volunteers took part in the Sew-A-Thon over the course of the weekend to make these pillows and bags, all of them united by a common task. They worked in two-hour shifts for 12 hours each day, running four production lines (two for cushions and two for bags). Volunteers were assigned jobs based on their skills; those who could sew assisted by the sewing machine and hand sewing, and those who couldn't helped out by doing simpler jobs such as cutting, stuffing and pressing.

"We made so many cushions and bags that we had to buy more fabric and ribbon for the second day!" beamed Kay Bruce from Craft Land. "We had an excellent turn out with everyone eager to help and join in; volunteers worked hard and did more than they were expected to. Lots of people enjoyed the experience so much that they asked if they could come back the next day to join in again, which of course we said yes to."

"The atmosphere was very warm and welcoming," said volunteer Maria, who attended both days. She preferred not to share her surname. "Women from different countries and cultures sat together, sewed together and laughed together. It was a wonderful experience and I feel privileged to have been able to work alongside the other volunteers and especially the organisers of this sew-a-thon."

The volunteers' work resulted in 300 pillows and 300 bags created by the end of the Sew-a-Thon. They all went into Estée Lauder bags to form a care pack, which included other gifts and information for recovering patients.

Along with making pillows and bags for these care packs, the event also raised Dh8,000 for Brest Friends by selling 20 Brother sewing machines - 12 of which were used during the Sew-a-Thon.

"Social sewing and crafting is really what Craft Land is about," explains Kay Bruce. "We're much more than a shop; we're a community and this event said a lot about us."

This is the first time Craft Land has held this Sew-a-Thon, and it plans to host it again in the future as an annual event.

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