By Elizabeth Varville, Correspondent
Since 2012, the partnership between The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB) and Threads of Hope have provided opportunities for UMHB students to give back through volunteer hours. The Special Needs Lab (SNL), mission trips, training video preparations, health clinics, and Threads of Hope projects are among the unique ways UMHB students gain experience to which no other university can compare.
On April 17, UMHB Administration, Threads of Hope, UMHB SNL students, SNL students and their families celebrated their collaboration with an afternoon function that included a meet-and-greet, hors d’oeuvres, and representatives of each department of the partnership.
UMHB students majoring in the field of education, precisely interdisciplinary study, are required to acquire over 300 hours of field experience; over a 100 of those hours are in the Special Needs Lab located on the campus. The SNL provides UMHB students with valuable hands-on experience that enables the students to be fully prepared to be a positive contributor in the classroom. Through the SNL, UMHB students help special needs high school students from the Belton and Salado districts to develop working skills, such as acquisition, fluency, maintenance, and generalization. By the SNL students mastering these skills, the SNL student is able to create a productive resume for job preparation.
“Threads of Hope provides a vehicle by which we (UMHB students) teach the special needs high school students that come to our lab, skills that can later be translated into job skills. SNL students learn about the levels of learning at an appropriate rate that is acceptable for a job situation and are then able to maintain those skills over a period of time. The UMHB students provide structure for these tasks,” said UMHB SNL Professor Dr. Kris Ward. “Threads of Hope supplies the SNL lab with hand-stitched artifacts that have been purchased by women in Peru. The SNL students then organize, tag, and inventory those products. UMHB students make visual task schedules which break down the process so the SNL students can independently perform the task efficiently.”
According to www.threadsofhopetextiles.org, the non-profit organization’s missions since 1999 is to break the cycle of poverty through strategies that empower the economically disadvantaged. The vision of the organization is to support the sales of handiwork created by disadvantages artisans around the world to bring about life-changing economic development.
“It is a great gift to be able to work with an institution like UMHB and then to have the energy of students with their young minds to look at our project and interact and learn from it: we (Threads of Hope) then change the way we do things.,” said Threads of Hope Director Cindy Rawn. “Once the products have been prepared for sell by the SNL students, we then sell the products at consignment sales throughout the country, generally during the last half of the year. The profit from the sales are then put toward the Threads of Hope grant fund where the artisans are able to access the fund for poverty-stricken areas. We started with seven artisans; we now have over 700 artisans who have access to this fund.”
SNL students and their families are very grateful for the opportunity the UMHB SNL offers.
“It has reinforced our Christian worldview to be active in working with ministries outside our communities. Our son is amazed by what he sees in the work that is produced. He feels as though he is contributing to something of worth. He really enjoys participating in the SNL Lab and the work that he helps to do. He is receiving skills that he really needs for getting a job,” said parent of SNL student Melissa Middlebrook of Temple.
For information on Threads of Hope, please visit www.threadsofhopetextiles.org and for more information on UMHB and the SNL Lab, please visit www.umhb.edu.