Program Celebrates 20 Years
by Stella Storch, OP
Question: What is better than being rescued from traffickers?
Answer: Not being trafficked in the first place.
There may be only one program that keeps orphans from being trafficked for sexual exploitation, and that is the AIDS Orphan Sewing Project of the St. Maria Goretti Organization in Bukoba, Tanzania, operated by the Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. For three years, girls are taught to sew, use computers, decorate with fabric, speak English, and solve basic math. They also learn how to cook and garden. They learn about morals and ethics. All of this helps them become self-reliant and self-assured, which is the most important piece of their education. These young women will not be duped when traffickers seek out victims for sexual exploitation.
Stella Storch, OP, founded and has supported the AIDS Orphan Sewing Project for 20 years. Since its inception, more than 500 young women have completed the program and are now earning a living for themselves, their siblings, and their families. They receive their own treadle sewing machine at graduation. Many are independent seamstresses; others work for schools where they sew and mend school uniforms.
The work could not be done without generous donors and grants. Each year, an appeal letter is sent out. It is a challenge to raise enough money for the 60 students enrolled annually. Of late, the girls are boarding at the motherhouse, which means more money must be raised. COVID also presented a challenge as students had to be socially distanced and wear masks while attending classes. Thankfully, there was not an outbreak at the school.
Aside from the sewing project, the St. Maria Goretti Organization also has a carpentry school for boys and provides other services for orphans. Learn more about these programs at www.stmgo.org.