From Lolli Jacobsen


September 20, 1999

Dear Friends,

Elaine Lackey is back in Nicaragua again for what may be her last official visit. She sends this report of some of the work she has been doing there:

"I want to thank all of you who have supported my work with the weavers’ cooperative in Nicaragua in the past, The Handweavers of Leon.

The reasons for my work here, as put forth by the New Haven-Leon Sister City Project, was to start by teaching them to repair their equipment (thus the need for a weaver who was also a woman carpenter), and also to impress on them how precise measurements are necessary for that equipment. Then to work with them on improving the quality of their work, to help them with new designs, and to help them with marketing.

The weavers watched this old lady carpenter, who was older than their mamas, saw boards, measure the shape of beaters to figure out why the shuttles wouldn’t stay on course, do things they needed. You should see them now—when something goes wrong, they get out the hand tools, and I’m so pleased to see them sawing boards, chiseling away unwanted wood to make something fit, putting in screws, making things work. It’s great! No, the equipment will never be bright and shiny, and things will always be cobbled together, but they will make them functional.

They needed help learning to correct errors in their weaving because the training they’d had never got that far, and they just didn’t know. It was particularly difficult because these are sweet women who work hard and get little for it. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, but I knew it would be unfair to let them continue the way they were going. So one day I told them they shouldn’t sell some of their products, holding up an example. Instead of showing wounded pride, their immediate response was, "Tell us what to do. Tell us how to do it right." How could I not love these women?

My main purpose at the weaving coop has been to make them an independent group, self-supporting, producing quality products, not dependent on charity. There will not always be a volunteer there to help them. It’s a difficult thing, but their traditions have not prepared them to think in the way we, here, think. These women have not been given confidence in themselves and their decisions. I introduce something new to them and it takes a while for them to come to an understanding about it. It’s usually been a case of I introduce something, or suggest they try something, and it’s difficult for them. Then I leave, and they apparently work at it, and when I have come back the next year they have worked at it and settled into it with confidence and pride. I suppose they have to talk it over among themselves as they try to understand it. It’s a good thing to do.

I wish you could know these women as I do, these intelligent women who were deprived of education for themselves and are determined that their children will do better. They pay tuition to keep their kids in high school when it means they have less to eat."

Elaine doesn’t get paid for her work in Nicaragua, but there are expenses getting her there and taking care of her (food and housing, etc.) while she is there. The New Haven-Leon Sister City Project counts on us to raise the $1,500 - $2,000 for this project so that they can concentrate their efforts on their other projects like clean wells and schools. The New Haven-Leon Sister City Project is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, so your donations are tax deductible.

If you would like to help in this year’s work with these marvelous women, you can send a contribution to:

New Haven-Leon Sister City Project

608 Whitney Ave.

New Haven, Ct. 06511

Please write: "For Elaine Lackey and weavers" in the memo space on your checks so they’ll know where the money is to go.

Elaine and I and the weavers thank you so very much,

Lolli Jacobsen

P.S. For more information about Elaine in Nicaragua you can read her letters from this year as well as previous years on my web page:

or they are available in binders at Pacific Textile Arts library or to loan or own from me directly.

Lolli Jacobsen P.O. Box 74 Mendocino, Ca. 95460 (707) 937 0352


Elaine at home in Wenatchee:

Elaine Lackey 102 N. Wenatchee Ave. Apt. 510 Wenatchee, Wa. 98801

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