Arts, gift sale will send local women to teach quilting in Rwanda

larry.larue@thenewstribune.comOctober 19, 2013 

Grace Mukukaranga, Rose Flannigan, Trulee Reed, Rose Gahire, and Julia Teters-Zeigler, from left, examine a quilt design that three local quilters will use while teaching their craft in Rwanda.


On any given weekend in the Northwest, you can find a bazaar, gift fair or rummage sale — some of them for wonderful causes.

If you’re out looking Saturday, Hospice Without Borders is sponsoring an art and gift sale in University Place, and anything you spend will go toward something you probably wouldn’t have imagined.

Like sending three quilters to Rwanda.

At Mount Cross Lutheran Church, the sale of quilts, glass, jewelry, woodworking, pillow cases, towels and more will send Rose Flannigan, Trulee Reed and Julia Teters-Zeigler to a small African village this spring.

There, the nonprofit organization will purchase sewing machines, and the women will teach hospice volunteers how to sew and quilt.

“By teaching them, we can give them a marketable skill,” said Angela Lee, co-founder of Hospice Without Borders. “Sewing will allow them to make and sell what they make. That will help support them and the hospice.”

Lee and co-founder Dr. David Slack do hospice work in Olympia, where the organization will open a hospice on Dec. 1, and in Rwanda.

“Developing countries have no organized end-of-life care,” Lee said. “Domestically, the homeless and uninsured have fragmented care.”

Caring for those nearing the end of life became a passion for Lee, a nurse for 20 years and a hospice nurse the last 11. In Rwanda, she and Slack found a kindred soul in Grace Mukukaranga.

Mukukaranga was working with the dying, often walking miles down muddy roads between clients.

Hospice Without Borders, begun in 2010, found her on the Internet. Lee and Mukukaranga exchanged emails. Slack visited Rwanda for a conference on tropical medicines, spent time with her and came back to the Northwest convinced.

“She’s the real deal,” he told Lee.

Today, Mukukaranga has a car, two full-time nurses and a hospice, thanks to Hospice Without Borders and its benefactors. Last year, Lee said, the Rwanda hospice treated 700 people.

It is, Lee said, a start.

Wondering what more could be done to help volunteers in Rwanda, quilting came to mind. Lee quilted growing up, and knew a fine artisan in Tacoma’s Rose Flannigan.

“I knew Angela. I’d met her when she was helping my brother-in-law Denny’s wife,” Flannigan said. “When she called, I said, ‘What do you need?’

“Then I called Trulee.”

Trulee Reed has quilted since 1970, and the Shelton woman taught in Nigeria in 1986-87. She was in.

The third woman not only quilted, she’d also written books about quilting and was known for her designing. Unfortunately, Teters-Zeigler no longer quilted.

A year ago, her Olympia home burned down and husband Jack was burned over 28 per cent of his body. He recovered, but emotionally, Teters-Zeigler had not.

“I lost 150 quilts in the fire, including some that my family had made together,” she said. “I found after the fire, when I sat down to quilt, I’d start crying. So I’d stopped.

“This connection — with these women, with this cause — made my heart well.”

She was in.

When they began talking about an art show and sale, they reached out to the quilting community — and quilts and other hand-sewn items poured in for the cause. Teters-Zeigler didn’t make a quilt, but created African-themed pen-and-ink and watercolor prints.

Fittingly, if you stop by Saturday — the show runs from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. — you can meet Mukukaranga and one of her Rwanda nurses, Rose Gahire. They’re visiting the Northwest and last week spoke to a hospice conference.

She’s enthused about the quilters coming to Rwanda in May, and not just because it will help her volunteers.

“I will learn to sew and quilt, too,” she said.

Mukukaranga’s work likely won’t be sold. It will turn into gifts for the dying she works with.

Stop by, and whether you buy a quilt or a small braided bracelet, you’ll have a hand in teaching a Rwandan to sew. That’s something you can’t do most weekends.

Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638

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