Westfield High School junior Katia Hamamouche is bringing smiles to the young faces of Haitian orphans
The threads of life are being woven by a 17-year-old with a judgeless love for younger generations thousands of miles away.
She’s never heard their voices, known their names or felt the hugs of gratitude from the little girls of Haiti. Although Hamamouche hasn’t stepped on Haitian soil, she can feel all the love she needs to inspire dress after dress she sews for orphans.
Hamamouche’s mother, Michelle Hamamouche, said the Westfield High School junior started sewing with her grandmother when she was about the same age as the orphans who now wear her hand-sewn dresses.
“She sold scarves for dogs, and (sold) scrunchies and headbands at Buy and Sell Day in fourth grade. She was very proud because she sold out that day,” said Michelle. “One of her teachers didn’t get a chance to buy her dog a scarf, so she was still sewing requests.”
As Hamamouche started her career in ballet, just like her sister and mother once did, her time for sewing was nearly nonexistent as she balanced dancing and school.
But last summer, Hamamouche revisited the sewing seat that remained empty for nearly eight years. She said summers allowed her to spend more time with her grandmother and reignited the love for sewing she had as an elementary student.
“My grandma bought me a sewing machine in fourth grade because I was the only grandchild who showed an interest in it, and that never really went away,” Hamamouche said.
Katia’s story of survival:
In 2009, Katia was relaxing on her couch in her family’s living room. Moments later, a car came striking through the living room, throwing Katia off the couch and into the stairway. Miraculously, Katia walked away from the shocking experience with only a few bruises. However, a year later, Katia developed Ciliax disease. Doctors said the disease is triggered by a traumatic experience and can develop years after the event, or only a few months.
The dreams of dancing:
Katia is part of the Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre, where she spends 35 hours a week training and dancing. Both her mother and 21-year-old sister are ballet dancers. Katia said she wants to study special education and dance at Butler University.
When she began sewing again, she found out a family friend who adopted two children from a Haitian orphanage was taking her children to visit the nation; that started the thread that would connect Hamamouche with children on the other side of the world.
“I started sewing the dresses with my grandma to help her out and have some granddaughter and grandma time, but then we just kept doing it,” Hamamouche said. “I just keep sewing dresses until I find someone to send them to Haiti with.”
Hamamouche said sewing is more than a hobby; it’s the thread that connects her with people in a world nothing like her own, and opened her eyes to a different way of life.
“I keep thinking a child is actually wearing this – a child is actually getting this when she doesn’t have other things,” Hamamouche said. “That makes me want to make every dress the best I can with special things like ruffles and fun colors. It may just be one dress, but I want it to be something they (the girls) love.”
The first time Hamamouche saw her sewing out of her home was on petite little girls living in an orphanage. Their dresses, colored with teal, pink and other hues, once unknown to their eyes, stood out of the dark circumstances and brought out the light-hearted smile of a carefree child.
“When someone brought back that picture of those little girls wearing the dresses I made, it was so nice. It was so nice to see their smiling faces,” Hamamouche said.