The right to clothing is tucked into Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one part of a list of basic human needs that everyone should have access to. On Thursday, we took that one little element of Article 25 and blew it wide open, looking at the right to clothing from many different angles. Some questions we considered:
- Why is clothing important, beyond just keeping our bodies covered?
- What consequences do people face if they can’t keep their clothes clean?
- What people or groups might not be able to exercise their right to clothing?
- What can we do to support people who need clothing or clean clothing?
- What is fast fashion, and what impact does it have on the world?
- How can our clothing choices be more environmentally sustainable?
- How can clothing deliver a message about issues that we care about?
Our fabulous guest for the day was Cutter Huston of The Laundry Project. Cutter, a new high school graduate, has for four years been organizing free laundry days, first in his community in Florida, and now in Charlottesville, VA, where his family has relocated. He shared how his passion for helping people obtain clean laundry started with volunteering, and with meeting a man who told him, “When I am wearing clean clothes, people see me.” He helped campers think about how having to wear dirty clothes can contribute to a downward spiral of unemployability, poverty, and the continuing lack of resources needed to wash clothes. Additionally, he challenged his eager listeners to find a project that they can be passionate about in their own communities, and where they can gain experience working with others toward positive change.
Campers then split into groups to work on three different service projects to support people with clothing needs. Four campers accompanied Cutter and two counselors to pick up laundry from families who had prearranged to participate in our free laundry service. They returned to camp and washed and dried the laundry, and in addition helped out Koinonia’s hospitality crew by washing linens. Another group cut patterns out of used denim jeans which will be sent to Sole Hope’s project in Uganda and made into shoes for toddlers. These shoes will protect children from a parasite that causes debilitating disease. (Thanks so much for local independent clothing company Tepuy Activewear for the loan of the fabric scissors!)
And a third group tie-dyed t-shirts that will support Koinonia’s Hospitality Beyond Borders. The shirts will be included in bags of clothing that Koinonia assembles and delivers to nearby Stewart Detention Center in response to requests from men who are held there and are awaiting deportation. The shirts that campers dyed will end up in all corners of the world and hopefully will be a reminder to the men who wear them that there are U.S. Americans who care about their needs. All campers also got to tie dye their own Peacebuilders Camp shirts!
After completing our projects to serve those with too little access to clothing, we turned our attention to the opposite problem: too many clothes, and the consequences of “fast fashion.” After a fast relay race that involved taking on and taking off many items of clothing, we watched a video that defines fast fashion and explains the environmental impact and labor issues associated with it. Campers were challenged to work toward buying fewer clothes, buying used clothing, buying quality clothing, and washing it only when needed.
Our final challenge for the day came from CIT Suli, who inspired the campers with the story of how in the past few months, in his senior year of high school, he started his own clothing company. Called Moral Fabric, the company’s goal is to market quality, inspirational clothing that features the designs of young artists. Campers were wildly enthusiastic about the designs that Suli shared, and many offered to provide designs of their own for him to use in future clothing lines! Both Suli and Cutter, who are each only a few years older than the campers, are fantastic examples of what’s possible when a passionate young person puts their mind to making a difference. Many thanks to both of these inspiring teens!
The day ended with a dance party and lots of merry-making. It’s hard to believe this group has only been together for four days. So many friendships and significant experiences have been shared. We are lucky to be with this band of happy campers!