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Saving the World, One Patch at a Time

Children worldwide designed 'pledge patches,' depicting how they promise to work on environmental stewardship.

Climate quilt gives children a voice in fighting for the environment

The world's children are joining the fight against climate change.

And they're doing it one fabric swatch at a time through an international initiative called the Climate Quilt Campaign, which encourages young people everywhere to help protect the environment.

Using recycled materials, children in the United States, Australia, China, New Zealand, Britain, the Philippines, South Africa and many other countries, designed "pledge patches," depicting how they promised to work on environmental stewardship. Last month, thousands of patches arrived in a small town in Pennsylvania where volunteers gathered to sew them together into a huge quilt.

Blanket protection

Steve's Sewing and Vacuum Center is a family-run store in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. It sells vacuums and sewing machines and all kinds of fabrics.

When Steve Chubin and his wife, Karen, opened their store almost 20 years ago, they dreamed of a place where their neighbors could gather, not just to buy fabric and thread, but to socialize and learn crafts like quilting and embroidery. That's exactly what Steve's is today.

Last September, Karen Chubin was watching TV when she saw a story about the Climate Quilt Campaign. She liked the connection between conservation and quilting.

Old-fashioned recycling

"Quilting is actually one of the best and most old-fashioned ways of recycling," she says. "Old fabrics, that's what a quilt is made of, any type of material and sewn together."

In the television report, Karen listened to the campaign's spokeswoman describe the global initiative.

"She was talking about the event, how to help children write pledges on fabrics or old T-shirts or anything that's recycled," she recalls. "They write their pledge of how they keep the environment safe."

Store co-owner Karen Chubin says she liked the concept behind the Climate Quilt Campaign and wanted to be part of it.
Store co-owner Karen Chubin says she liked the concept behind the Climate Quilt Campaign and wanted to be part of it.

And she talked about how they were looking for volunteers to sew the pledge patches together into a quilt. Karen wanted Steve's to be a part of the effort. Campaign spokesperson Lisa Kemmerer says they were happy to accept her offer of help.

Joining the effort

"I told her how many patches we had — 2,500 in the U.S. alone, and then 5,000 internationally," Kemmerer says. "She said they would love to have a day here where they can donate their equipment, and have volunteers come in and sew it all together and get this really done for us, because we're a small not-for-profit campaign and we don't have a big budget."

Store co-owner Steve Chubin says he was amazed at the positive response they got from the community when they asked their customers to help out.

Local quilters volunteered to sew thousands of patches together into a huge quilt.
Local quilters volunteered to sew thousands of patches together into a huge quilt.

"We e-mailed people about what was going on here this weekend a couple of weeks ago," Steve says."And customers called us back saying 'that's nice to see that you're involved, and to know you're helping the earth and being green.'"

Phyllis Smith got one of those e-mails, liked the idea and decided to volunteer.

"I'm sewing together the beautiful strips that the kids have made," she says. "They are fantastic. You read them and go, 'aw,' and you read another one and you go, 'wow.' We're supposed to be sewing and we can't sew for reading them — how great they are!"

Young quilters

Many local students also came in to help. Five-year-old Dylan worked with his classmates on a small quilt. "We all made different pledges and we wrote our ages and our names," he says. "Our quilt is right there. I did it all by myself."

Dylan pledged to use less water when washing his hands. Fourteen-year-old Rachel and her younger brother, Jacob, had other ideas.

"A lot of people probably waste a lot of food and if they just save their food, like leftovers and stuff, it would probably help a lot," says Rachel.

Pennsylvania students create quilt patches bearing their pledges to save the environment.
Pennsylvania students create quilt patches bearing their pledges to save the environment.

"My pledge was to help the environment and help pick up the trash and to stop polluting," Jacob says.

Eleven-year-old Patrick says the climate quilt project was a chance for him to learn and express his creativity.

"I learned that recycling is important," Patrick says. "And you should do it every day when you get an opportunity. I put stickers down and drew some smiley faces to reflect my personality."

Shauna Munshower's four children made patches for the Climate Quilt. She says the project was a fun learning experience for them.

"By doing this it makes them start to think about the way they behave and the way they are treating the environment and hopefully they realize to cut down on energy usage and conserve water," she says. "Small things like that and spread it around by their example. It will be also good if they got interested in quilting and sewing. That would be nice, I would like that."

Spreading the word

The Climate Quilt campaign empowers kids, says Steve's store manager Liz Badell, a quilter and campaign volunteer.

"I guess it's just important that they feel that they can affect change, that they can be a part of something and see how it makes a difference to them and the world," Badell says.

That's the ultimate goal of the Climate Quilt and future campaigns, says Kemmerer.

"After this campaign, there are other ways we're going to try to engage students as well," she says. "We will be doing campaigns throughout the year focusing on all different things. So this campaign focused in climate, the next one might focus on endangered animals or recycling school supplies or healthy eating."

The finished quilt, made of 7,500 patches, will be displayed in Washington, D.C. and New York City to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. But kids everywhere can still visit the campaign's website to create their virtual pledge patches — and show how much they care about the environment.

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    Faiza Elmasry

    Faiza Elmasry writes stories about life in America. She wrote for several newspapers and magazines in the Middle East, covering current affairs, art, family and women issues.  Faiza joined VOA after working in broadcasting in Cairo for the Egyptian Radio and Television Corporation and in Tokyo for Radio Japan.