By Jan Lewin

In December 2007, Corinne and Jeff Adams and Susan and Jeff Spratt went on a global mission organized by Buckhead’s Northside United Methodist Church and found themselves in Chococente, Nicaragua.

The small village, only five years old at the time, was created for families who once lived in a landfill called La Chureca, or “worthless place,” where families lived in cardboard shacks, fed themselves by picking through piles of wet garbage and watched their babies play in raw sewage with vultures circling overhead.

Chococente is thriving, however, thanks to the group missions from Northside Methodist Church that are in partnership with a Christian ministry called Project Chococente. Mace Hall, the church’s missions director, started the global missions, which have become an ongoing fixture in the lives of at least several Buckhead families.

“I love going and connecting with people from a different culture,” said Susan Spratt. “I see what their burdens and joys are each day and it makes me appreciate where I come from.”

The mission groups help construct latrines, construct homes and dig irrigation ditches. In addition, they spend time with the women and children teaching new crafts and sharing each other’s lives and customs.

In March 2008, one participant, Beth Lacefield, brought fabric appliqués and other sewing materials to the village, and unbeknownst to everyone, a new cottage industry was born.

“The women have very nimble fingers and already knew how to sew,” Susan Spratt said. “They were making macramé hammocks and purses already.”

At the end of that mission, the group brought back some of the brightly sewn appliqués to Atlanta, and Lacefield incorporated them into finished linens, pillows and other home goods that she sold to friends and family members. All the proceeds went back to the village for its general operating fund, school or special projects.

The village women recognized the opportunity, and began to sew between missions. In 2009, eight women of Chococente presented Corinne Adams with more than 3,000 sewn items that the women had been preparing, hoping they again could be turned into finished goods that would be sold to raise money for the village and the individual women.

“My eyes opened wide as I looked inside garbage bags each woman had filled with thousands of sewn items,” said Corinne Adams. “I suppose today this might be called microfinance. I would call it amazing.”

Mission members have spent the last several months turning them into decorative items to sell during the holiday season.

“To date we have raised over $8,000 for the village, which is significant considering 70 percent of the population makes less than a dollar a day,” said Corinne Adams. “Now, they have so much opportunity, and we have created amazing relationships with the families.”

The finished pillows, journals, T-shirts and other items will be sold at the Westminister Alternative Gift Fair Dec. 4. Not long after, the Adams will leave to visit their beloved friends and partners in Chococente. In addition, they will begin a new adventure to bring families out of the landfill in Tipi Tapa, a village near Chococente.