Imagine expecting a baby and having absolutely nothing to give them - no diapers, no blanket, nothing. Many mothers in foreign countries find themselves in this situation.
A group from Waterloo and Cedar Falls is working to change that.
Smiles and happy chatter fill St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Cedar Falls, but it was heartbreaking images from Nicaragua that inspired these volunteers to unite and help.
"We were heartsick, wondering what we could do to help these people who are below poverty level, who have absolutely nothing," Sherrie Dreyer, volunteer, said.
Dreyer, a retired educator and grandmother, said after viewing a presentation by the Downtown Waterloo Rotary Club called "Children of the Dump," depicting life in Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch struck in 1998, her PEO chapter decided they had to help.
Particularly expectant moms and their newborns.
"I feel committed about helping women who are in extreme poverty, to raise them a level to maybe poverty, and get them started in their lives with a child," Patty Achey Cutts, organizer, said.
Learning that the mothers have nothing to give their babies, these volunteers began to make reusable cloth diapers out of donated T-shirts, some complete with Iowan logos.
They also collect baby supplies like wash cloths, baby shampoo, lotion and more to put into a layette, or baby gift package.
The layettes are sent from Waterloo to a woman's refuge center called Belin in Chinandega in northwest Nicaragua.
"Women in Nicaragua have few chances to use a hospital, many walk 100 miles. They can only get in four hours before delivery, and can only stay 6 hours after," Cutts said.
"Some of them have walked two or three days to get to Chinandega, and they have nothing other than a baby. They were sleeping in a park waiting to go into labor," David Buck, Rotary Club volunteer, said.
Because of the harsh conditions for new moms and babies, the Waterloo Rotary Club supports the Belin Women's Refuge, which has gone from 12 to 48 beds.
Women can arrive two weeks before delivery. A nurse is on hand 24 hours a day, and a doctor visits daily.
The women take Lamaze classes and personal and newborn care classes.
Organizer Patty Achey Cutts says these tools make a lasting difference.
"I've seen their faces," she said. "They are so humble, so grateful to have something to give their child to embrace them, and to start their new life."
These volunteers hope the joy they found in making these layettes brings a smile to the waiting mothers and babies half a world away.
"As a grandma, that's pretty close to our hearts," Dreyer said.
This group made 240 diapers.
Although a thousand women pass through the women's refuge in Nicaragua each year.
The Rotary Club has never been able to provide all the women with a layette.
This year they aim to provide 800.
If you would like to help or donate call the Downtown Waterloo Rotary Club at 319-234-1440.