What does a country leaving a war look like? In Maj. Art LaFlamme’s world at the moment, it looks like this: A pickup truck full of fabric that’s been sent to northern Iraq by quilters around the globe.
LaFlamme, a California native, is on his third tour of duty in Iraq, but he says he’s been “involved with Iraq” since 1990. A few weeks ago, he says, he and some others in his office were talking about the drawdown of American troops and what would happen to machinery and supplies the U.S. has sent to Iraq, “and wouldn’t it make sense if we could convert some of the stuff into good over here for people who have needs.”
“We started talking about Ramadan, which we’re now in. Generosity is a key component, looking inwards and looking outwards to helping others and how that’s a big part of this culture,” he told me in a call from Iraq this afternoon. ()
Surplus war equipment and fabric for quilting is quite a leap. But LaFlamme comes from a family of quilters () and his desire to leave something useful behind led him to start the Iraqi Bundles of Love project. “Sewing fanatics and quilters and knitters tend to have stashes that far exceed their actual needs, and sewing fanatics and quilters and knitters are passionate both about sewing / quilting / knitting, and about sharing with others,” he wrote on his blog. So he asked them to send the excess to Iraq for Ramadan. They did.
These sorts of efforts tend to take on a life of their own and this one is no exception. LaFlamme figured if he got a few dozen boxes of fabric, that’d be fine. “I just handed over a good 80-85 of the first group that arrived,” he said. “I thought this was going to be a relatively minor project — in the tens. I don’t think they were quite ready when I said (to his colleagues), ‘I’ve got about 100 for you guys to pick up.’” ()
“It’ll go out in the area where I’m based. Some will go to individuals who have had grants and loans for things like fabric-related businesses or sewing co-ops, some will go to widows and orphans in the area, people in need. The sheer volume of bundles that are going to be involved in this have us relooking at our distribution plan,” LaFlamme said.
The project will end when Ramadan does — in the third week of September. A few weeks after that, Major LaFlamme will come home.
(h/t: Heather Heimbuch)