Stepping into the Spotlight: Carol Petti

Single Steps Strategies Spotlight for the month of November is Carol Petti, a Pittsburgh native and one of the co-founders of Weaving Healing Hearts Together. This organization sells baskets handmade by women who are victims of the war in Goma, the DR Congo.

Read more about how something small like an old suitcase can impact a woman’s life.

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Got a beat up but still usable large suitcase that’s good for a few more trips? I’ve got a unique opportunity to make use of that old Samsonite and change a woman’s life by sending it on a journey.

No kidding.

Women play many roles when it comes to Weaving Healing Hearts Together, here’s how it clicks into place….

Becky Servant of Heaven’s Family works directly with the women in the DR Congo to develop self-sufficiency. One of those ways is hand woven baskets made by women who are victims of the war in the DR Congo.  Once upon a winter’s evening, Becky brought her potluck entrée in one of these great baskets. Being women who love to eat and love handmade products, we oohed and ah’d over both her entrée and the basket.

My heart broke to hear the story of the women weavers, then melted to see the photos showing joy on the their faces. By the time dessert arrived, my heart was captured to assist these women weavers.

The reasons for the region’s genocides, past and present, large and small, are various. One recent reason has been the strife over “conflict minerals” being mined in eastern Congo. Those minerals have names like tantalite, cassiterite and wolframite, and they’re found in most consumer electronics. Profits from the sale of those minerals have been bankrolling African armies and rebel groups for years. As factions fight over the minerals, hundreds of thousands of people have been caught in the crossfire. Villages are often attacked and burned to the ground, causing people to flee to the city of Goma in the DR Congo. Many of the women have suffered rape, used regionally as a weapon of war.

In 2010 the U.S. government enacted a law requiring publicly listed American companies to disclose if any of their products contain minerals from mines controlled by armed groups in or around Congo. Even prior to that, leading electronics companies such as Intel, Motorola and HP had already been tracking sources of minerals used in their products. Since 2012, for example, Intel’s microprocessors have used conflict-free tantalum.

Goma sits at the epicenter of decades of wars that have taken the lives of 5.4 million people and created an ongoing refugee crisis. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled to this city of sprawling slums. The DR Congo is near the very bottom of the UN Human Development Index, number 176 out of 188 countries. (Gross national income per capita is $680, compared to $52,947 for the U.S.)

The weavers, displaced widowed women, and their children have found a safe haven and learned the fine art of basket weaving using strips of hard plastic. Making one large bag requires EIGHT hours of labor. The women sit outside and weave the baskets to sell locally for a few dollars for use when people go to market for food.

Weaving Healing Hearts Together was founded to sell the baskets in the United States. We depend on women (and some helpful men) missionaries traveling there to bring the suitcases back filled with hand woven bags of multiple sizes and colors. And yes the most popular in Pittsburgh is black and gold!

The baskets sell for $30-$45 and ALL the money is sent to the women weavers to provide income and funds for a building. The baskets have found multiple state-side uses: a sturdy shopping bag, a beach bag, a knitting bag, and to haul black & gold to the next Penguin’s game. Women have requested Penn State blue and white, Relay for Life purple and black, Christmas red and green and more color combinations.

Coming soon is the launch of the Weaving Healing Hearts Together Facebook page and WeavingHealingHeartsTogether.wordpress.com.

Come see the beautiful baskets at the Women Helping Women Craft and Vendor Show on November 4, 2017 from 10AM to 3PM at Bower Hill Community Church, 70 Moffett Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15243.  Hope to see you there!

If your heart has been touched by this story, please reach out via email WeavingHealingHearts@gmail.com to purchase a basket, donate a suitcase, or schedule a presentation for your church or organization. TOGETHER we can provide an income for the women weavers and heal their hearts.