So, somehow I had never heard of Iraqi Bundles of Love, the project of a soldier stationed in Iraq to get raw sewing materials into the hands of individual Iraqi women. I do not normally give in-kind goods for charity. They make the giver feel really good--and they actually cost the charity money to store, ship, and distribute; money that could be directly spent to buy more of whatever you sent for cheaper at wholesale and do more good for the beneficiaries. Money is always more valuable than goods.
However, this is the perfect type of project for sending goods. IBOL is not a 501(c)(3) charitable organization (a US tax status thing). It's not even an organization at all. It doesn't have a bank account or a budget and there is no place to send money. It is just one guy asking people to send bundles of fabric.
Because of the long years of sanctions against Iraq during the Saddam Hussein years, all goods are scarce. And because it has not been safe for aid workers during the war years, there are few charities to distribute goods now the sanctions have been lifted. The soldier who invented IBOL wanted to do something about this. I think he mainly reached out to the quilting community last year simply because his mom is a quilter, and since garment sewing and quilting don't have a ton of overlap I don't know that word has gotten out in our community.
Here is the word and please spread it! If you are in the US, you can send a flat-rate box to an APO address. The address is emailed to you when you leave a comment on the IBOL blog (the organizer does not want the address publicized for obvious reasons so I cannot provide it). A large flat-rate box costs $12.50 to mail to an APO address. You have to fill out customs form 2976a. It is the size of a half-sheet of paper--not the green one or the other one that's the size of the green one (this confused my post office very much).
You build a bundle of fabric (large pieces and solids or tame prints preferred) and whatever notions you may have. I threw in a large spool of thread (the Gutermann 1000 meter ones), a lot of buttons, and machine and hand-sewing needles. I made the simple needle book by stapling a square of fleece (flannel would be better but I didn't have any) into a folded piece of paper. Tie it all up with a ribbon so the bundle can be removed from the box and stay in one piece and send it off. For ideas, check out the What to Send page and the flickr photos people have uploaded (be sure to use the tag "iraqibundlesoflove" on your flickr photos).
I picked up two boxes from the Post Office (thank goodness there is one right next to the metro!) and it took me about an hour to select my fabrics, round up the notions, and build the bundle. I would have preferred to send more thread and maybe a seam ripper or thread snips in each, but with my limited mobility I haven't been able to make it to a fabric store.
I am so thrilled to be able to share some of my bounty with Iraqi women who have nothing, women who have probably not felt like America has done a lot for them. There are very few ways in which the average American can say to the average Iraqi, "We are all sisters under the skin." This is one remarkable way. Last year they received and distributed 3445 bundles. So far this year they've received 26.
You have until next Friday, October 1 to get your bundle in the mail.