Zimpeto Sewing and Carpentry Program
Bob and Betty live in Belle River Ontario, and are presently retired. Their desire in joining the Iris family is to continue serving for as long as they are able! Several years ago it was the Blanchette’s youngest daughter Renee, who first felt a desire to travel to Africa. Betty also felt a pull in her heart for the nation of Mozambique. One day a magazine arrived from the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, and in it was a story about the Bakers and the ministry they were involved with in Africa. It was Renee who quickly realized that Iris in Mozambique was where she wanted to both visit and serve. In August 2004 Betty and Renee traveled together to the Zimpeto Centre. Upon their return, when looking at the pictures they had captured, Bob realized that he too could do what they had done.
In 2005 all three returned for an extended period of time. Bob, a skilled carpenter, began by assisting another visitor to put up a false ceiling in three rooms of the medical clinic. After the other visitor left Bob continued putting up two more ceilings in two others rooms – this time with the help of two of the Iris boys from the centre. This began other building projects in the school that Bob and some of the boys worked on together.
Betty, a skilled seamstress, was able to devote a lot of her time in these early visits to sewing needed items for the centre.
In 2007 Bob & Betty returned to Zimpeto for 6 months. Bob really enjoyed working with some of the boys, building cupboards, tables, cots (baby cribs), computer desks and framing windows.
Betty asked if she could teach sewing to some of the girls in the centre, and was able to teach 11 of the Iris girls and a young woman from the community how to sew. “I was amazed to see how far they progressed in 5 short months, considering that most of them had never seen a sewing machine before. They are so eager to learn.”
The Blanchettes are looking forward to returning for 9 months in April 2008, and are hopeful of repeating this pattern over the coming years. Bob’s desire and prayer is that he be enabled to assist young men in developing skills which will provide employment for them as they leave the centre to begin life in the community. “One thing that I learned in Zimpeto was patience. It is important to let the boys do work at their own pace. It is my goal to teach carpentry skills to more of the boys over the next few years.” Similarly, Betty will focus on teaching young women to sew – a skill which will enable them to support their own families in the future. “We are trusting God for further direction”.