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A Stitch in Time...
Thursday, 29 November 2012 Written by Branimir Mlakić

Ivo Mlakić & Valerie Kae KenAs we’ve already written, Ivo Mlakić, a very experienced tailor from Bosnia, had come to Kivumu to share some of his practical knowledge and experience with the students and teachers of the tailoring section in our school.

Soon after his arrival, Ivo was joined by Valerie Kae Ken, the Canadian fashion designer, who, among numerous other things, designed the program and curriculum for our tailoring school. So the two of them, each in their own area of expertise – Valerie in design and theory; Ivo in practical cutting and sewing - joined forces and got down to work.

Valerie, who has been coming to Kivumu for many years now and has helped in the development of our vocational school, often used to say that it would be good if a genuine tailoring craftsman could be brought to the school to work with the students.

It has never been easy or simple to transfer things from theory into practice, because so many problems arise only when you start to transfer things from paper into reality. That’s where people whose job it is to put ideas into form – be it a tailor, a builder, or a civil engineer – come in. Tailors often have a hard time dealing with designers, just as engineers can have a hard time with architects who often envision things that are impractical, unfeasible or simply too expensive.

I am pleased to say that Valerie and Ivo didn’t have such difficulties and that they worked very well together. Although they live in two completely different countries, when it comes to things related to tailoring, they seemed to speak the same language. And although Ivo and Valerie, eager as they both were to help as much as they could in the short period of time they were here, would probably not agree with this and will say that so many things were left undone, I can tell you that in these several weeks they had spent with us in Kivumu, they managed to achieve a great deal.

The two of them, working together with our teachers and students, redesigned and sewed the new school uniforms (overalls, trousers, skirts, shirts and blouses, which will now feature green collars and pockets, adorned with a newly designed school logo. They also created detailed step-by-step ‘sew-thru’ instructions for the future yearly sewing of the uniforms. Ivo also worked on improving the cutting and sewing process by comparing local methods with European practices and he introduced better sewing practices using the electrical sewing machines.

As well, he reorganized the layout of sewing machines in the second-year classroom, making it more workplace-oriented, and enables better teacher-student interaction.

I could go on like this forever, because so many ‘little’ things were done, which when taken as a whole, greatly improves the functioning of our school – whether it is the organizing of the tailoring patterns and books, correcting paperwork, or maybe some other ‘boring’ task - jobs which often people run away from because concrete, instantaneous results are not quickly seen upon completion. But Ivo and Valerie did not run from such work. And it was such a pleasure to see the second-year tailoring students observing Ivo with amazement as he showed them this or that ‘trick’ on the sewing machines.

On the last day of his four week visit to the school, as Ivo said goodbye to Kivumu, Rwanda with a heavy heart, you can imagine the students’ astonishment when Valerie told them that just that morning Ivo managed to cut and sew three entire pairs of trousers in four hours! Truly this was the best motivation the students could have been given... if you say something can be done, and then do it yourself, that it is the best way for students to realize that they too can one day become masters of their trade.

We thank Valerie and Ivo for their generously donated time and effort – all for the good of our Padri Vjeko VTC and the people of Kivumu.

Translated by: Branimir Mlakić
Edited by: Valerie Kea Ken

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