Oct. 23, 2017 Newsletter

Mary Ann McCammon displays a quilted square made by a member of a Kenyan women’s Obstetric Fistula support group.

Some people are “reinventing” themselves in retirement these days in amazing and inspiring ways. Our speaker last week, Mary Ann McCammon, is one of them. After a career in nursing at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), she “retired” to start and run a nonprofit to help and empower women in Kenya.

She started by describing the medical condition–Obstetric Fistula– which captured her interest and resulted in the formation of her organization, “Quilts for Empowerment.”

“In western Kenya, a girl can be married off at age 11 or 13 in exchange for a cow. She usually gets pregnant right away, and due to circumstances there, is often malnourished during the pregnancy. Then, during childbirth, there can be complications which lead to Obstetric Fistula.”

According to the Fistula Foundation, Obstetric Fistula is one of the most serious and tragic childbirth injuries. It is a hole between the birth canal and bladder or rectum caused by prolonged, obstructed labor, without access to timely, high-quality medical treatment. It leaves women leaking urine, feces or both, and often leads to chronic medical problems, depression, social isolation and deepening poverty.

Mary Ann said that many husbands in Kenya abandon their wives with the condition. Looking for a way to help these women, she made her first trip to Kenya in Oct. 2015 and took quilting supplies. She held classes, which grew in number of attendees as word got out.

Mary Ann’s husband, Steve, displays some quilt squares.

“I am an art quilter. We tried everything…and then the idea of telling their story through quilting took hold.”

She returned six months later to work with the women on further development of the idea. They did table mats, table runners and small quilts. “In 2017, we added tote bags with story quilts on the pockets,” she said.

Now, “Quilts for Empowerment” is a registered nonprofit in Oregon. She is also partnering with the “Women and Development Against Distress in Africa” (Wadadia.org) organization and has a coordinator, Norah, teaching the classes now.


Her outlined her business model:

  • Pay the quilters a fair trade wage
  • Work with women in existing Fistula support groups
  • Pay the women when they finish a product

Mary Ann said that the proceeds from two quilts will enable a woman to buy a laying hen; $300 will buy a good milk cow.

Mary Ann signs a book for the library at the end of her talk.

Future Plans:

Mary Ann has set a number of goals for the upcoming year, including holding two successful events, identifying major donors and sponsors, identifying markets, developing a three-year budget, submitting grant applications and selling products on her website. Additionally, she wants to set up a mechanism to measure the impact personally and financially.

On Nov. 4, a fundraiser will be held at the Wine Country Barn, 16200 Lewis Rogers Lane from 2 to 4 pm. Program products will be for sale and there will be a silent auction. Early bird tickets are $30; Day of event, $40. For information, contact: quilts4empower@gmail.com.

“Friends of Rotary” Program Begins

Paula Radich announced the start of the new “Friends Of Rotary” program. She said the likely prospects for this new type of membership are community or family members, or prior Rotary members who desire to serve the community.

This type of membership would be a good fit for those who lack sufficient time or ability to attend weekly meetings. The requirements are that applicants must demonstrate high ethical standards, meet the qualifications for admission to Rotary and participate in one to two events per year. They may not vote, and cannot serve on the board, but will get the newsletter. There is no cost to join. “Friends of Rotary” only pay for meals or events when they attend. Paula thanked Ann Dolan and Julie Want for their work in helping to get the program going. If you know of any candidates for this program and would like an application, please contact Paula.


We had 3 guests last week:

  • Visiting Rotarian and husband of the speaker, Steve McCammon (a member of the Kruse Way Rotary Club) joined us
  • Mary Beth McNulty, a friend of the speaker who is an esthetician in Newberg, attended
  • Maria Ines De Aguirre from Argentina (center, below) was a guest of Dr. Stan Kern and Dale Welcome. Maria was a Rotary exchange student who stayed with Dr. Stan’s family 43 years ago and became and remained friends with Stan’s daughter (who is Dale’s wife)!

Various and Sundry

Congrats to Om Sukheenai for winning the “Judges’ Choice” at the Oct. 14 “Soup’s On” fundraiser for Soroptimist International. Her “beef in herbal coconut milk” took first place, and now everyone wants the recipe!

Jeff Lane will be welcoming his second grandchild–a boy–in February. Jeff is also organizing the effort to have a Resource Room for students at Mountain View Middle School up and running by Nov. 1. If you are interested in helping out, please contact Jeff.

Dale Welcome is having shoulder replacement surgery in early November. Ouch! We wish him the best.

Aaron Lewis, left, and Corey Zielsdorf were among the volunteers who stayed after last week’s meeting to put stickers on dictionaries our club will distribute to third graders in Newberg and Dundee schools.

Calendar Items

  • Rachel Huber invites you to bring the kids (or grandkids) in their costumes to “trick or treat” with the residents of Avamere, 730 Foothills Dr., from 4 to 6pm on Oct. 31.
  • Dec. 2 is the annual Holiday Tree Lighting event in the Cultural District. Festivities get underway at 3pm; Santa arrives at 5:30pm. A holiday craft fair and a kids craft sale are also planned.