Sunday, 10 July 2011

Get Stuffed! The Zonta Breast Cancer Care Cushion

This afternoon I dropped in on my club's "Stuff, Sew and Sip" afternoon. For the readers who are not Australian (like you - one reader in Poland) let me explain.

In 1994, Anne Selle, a member of the Zonta Club of Botany Bay, invented the breast cancer care cushion to support a friend through a mastectomy.  Since then clubs all over Australia have adopted the cushion and hand make thousands of them every year. At "Stuff, Sew and Sip" sessions. (BTW, you don't want to get those three in the wrong order otherwise all sorts of problems can emerge)

So let's have a look at this deeply useful product.

You can see it is a u-shaped cushion that is worn under the arm. The cushion keeps the arm slightly elevated, away from any surgery wounds, without one having to constantly hold one's arm in the air. Women who use them also report they are great when sleeping.

Now this is how we make them. First of all the cushion shape is cut and generous and skilled club members, who are the proud owners of sewing machines, sew up the cushion shapes, ready for stuffing.

Thank you to our sewing club members, such as Grace pictured here
Then we hold one of our social afternoons and finish them off:

We stuff  'em:
The stuffing is ordinary, cushion stuffing we buy in huge bales from Tontine
They end up like this, you can see the small stuffing hole:

Then the ladies with better eyesight and sewing skills than I, hand sew closed that hole in the base.

Then we tag them for identification

And finally wrap the finished the product in cellophane and bundle up for delivery to the hospital.

The wrapping keeps them clean and it's kinda like getting a present
Our club, combined with the Zonta Club of Canberra, makes around 400 cushions per year to ensure that everyone in Canberra who needs a cushion gets a cushion.

When I joined Zonta and started making cushions I was told that there was a very distinct philosophy behind the cushions:

  • made by hand so that they carried our love, care and attention with them, (thus we do not outsource production to any manufacturing process) 
  • use feminine, pretty fabric (to be special for a woman at a time when she might be feeling down)
  • given for free as a handmade gift,
  • production to be done as a club social event so members spend time chatting and bonding. (things are always better with cake!)
In Canberra we don't always keep the cushion making to ourselves. We use these opportunities to invite our friends, and in the past we've set up a cushion making session at our Birthing Kit packing day

We get plenty of notes from women who have been recipients of a cushion and they frequently tell of how comfortable and necessary the cushion has been. We have included a couple of such notes on our club cushion flyer.

Embiggen to read the text

There is no doubt that this project is a winner. All the resources go straight into the cushion and cushions go straight to the woman when she needs it.

Is this a project your Zonta Club could do?

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