by David Brusie - Chelmsford Independent
ACTON - For the past three years, kids who have come to America for a brief respite from Chernobyl radiation have received special gifts: quilts from the Chelmsford Quilter's Guild.
The Chernobyl Children's Project is a non-profit organization that aids children affected by the Chernobyl tragedy of 1986 through services ranging from surgery to ultrasounds. Part of this mission also includes bringing the children to the U.S. to stay with a host family.
The Chelmsford Quilter's Guild, founded in 1980, has about 100 members and monthly meetings to promote and discuss quilting. This year, the Guild enlisted the help of some smaller hands, those of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders in Community Education's Extended Day after-school program.
Quilter's Guild member Mary James is also a teacher at Extended Day, and thought it would be a great idea to get the kids involved with helping their peers, no matter how far away they might be.
"This is my first year teaching there, and one of the activities in the program I started is a small quilt group, and I taught them quilting and made pillows," said James.
She said her group knew from the beginning that they wanted to donate their quilt - made by individuals working on their own squares and later joining them together - but weren't sure to whom, at first. Then it was obvious.
"I thought of the Chernobyl group that I worked with already ... It was almost like we knew where it would go," said James.
Though the idea of donating a quilt to the program isn't new - the Quilter's Guild has made almost enough quilts for each of the 120 children in the program since they started donating - Extended Day's participation is a recent twist. The quilting class is also new to Extended Day, and James said it was a great experience.
"I'm trying to expose them to different aspects of quilting and fabric arts. Right now they're doing machine quilting ... They're an enthusiastic bunch. They enjoy doing it, and [the quilt is] attractive, considering they're just random squares they're putting together," said James.
Patricia Doyle, president of Chernobyl Children's Project USA, said the donations have added something special to the program.
"You can tell [the Chernobyl children] treasure them. They're on their walls, they're on their beds, they're in predominant places when you walk into their homes," said Doyle.
She added that while the gifts have lent a certain cultural education to the Extended Day kids, the kids in the program also learn quite a bit about American culture from the quilts.
"They are very surprised over there that American women know how to do anything. I had made some gifts for people, and they thought I bought them, and I said, 'No, I made them' ... Having these people quilt these are a wonderful gift for these people to go home with. It just shows a little bit about our culture, that we're not as disposable a society as they think," said Doyle.
©2004 David Brusie and Chelmsford Independent
Staff writer David Brusie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted with permission from David Brusie and the Chelmsford Independent
Photos Provided By The Chelmsford Quilters Guild
For meeting information: Chelmsford Quilters Guild, PO Box 422, Chelmsford, MA 01824.
Meetings are held at the Aldersgate Church, Route 4 - Billerica Road, Chelmsford, MA.
For additional information contact Marie J. Geary, 38 Amble Road, Chelmsford, MA 01824; e-mail: