Habitat for Humanity: Sewing the seeds of love

Seamstress Marilyn Jones is part of a team that helps keep children out of hospital.

As head seamstress at Habitat for Humanity's Auckland region Curtain Bank, Marilyn Jones has overseen the production of more than 4000 fully-lined curtains in the past 12 months, all destined for homes with dampness and mould issues.

The curtains are given for free to qualifying families, often those with children who have been in hospital with respiratory problems stemming from the damp, cold condition of their homes. "By keeping their houses warmer, the children are less likely to be admitted into hospital," says Marilyn.

AMI is proud to partner with Habitat for Humanity, to help it achieve its goal of transforming the lives of 75,000 Kiwis over the next three years through warm, dry housing. From the time Marilyn receives a referral for curtains, it is usually five weeks to installation. "We make all our curtains to reach from the top of the windows to the floor, to keep the warmth in the house, so it's not going out through the windows or around the floor," she explains. Measurements in hand, she works out the size of the curtains needed, cuts the fabric and linings, then sends them to be sewn.

When the curtains are finished, they go back to Marilyn, who checks the order is complete, fills in the paperwork and then passes them on to the installation team. Sometimes, it can take as little as seven days to fulfil an order, especially if high-quality donated curtains can be used.

"We receive quite a number of donated curtains which we check through when they arrive," says Marilyn. "Often they have mould on the linings, so the linings are all taken out and used as drop cloths in the workshop. The curtains are washed in the laundry, and then they come back and the team measures them up. And then, when I'm needing curtains for a house, I can go to the shelf and just find what I need."

Marilyn has been a seamstress her whole life, and before joining Habitat for Humanity worked with designers on high-end wedding dresses.

She loves the satisfaction that she gets from her role, knowing that her work makes a material difference for a family in need.

"Often we receive emails from families who are really grateful for receiving these curtains," she says. "I enjoy working here because we know that we are improving people's lives because they're in a much warmer house with the curtains."