The next time the AAFP Foundation sponsors a Family Medicine Cares International trip, medical supplies will be accompanied by something else sure to make younger patients feel better – one-of-a-kind sundresses. Ashley Poole, a global population health specialist at the AAFP Center for Global Health Initiatives, sewed dozens of the beautiful dresses during a recent month-long sabbatical.
The sabbatical, available upon selection to Academy employees with 10 years of service, gave Poole a chance to support the Foundation’s humanitarian work in a very personal way. The pillowcase dress project pays homage to her mother, Paula Markham, who died unexpectedly in 2017.
The sewing machine Poole used is a family keepsake; her mother kept that machine humming.
“I wanted to learn to sew on her machine – it was one of her passions,” Poole says. “She had a heart of gold, a service heart, and was always doing something for others.”
With advice from her aunt, Poole quickly learned how to do everything from cutting the pattern to winding the bobbin, from binding arm holes to sewing on ribbons.
“Sewing with my mom’s sister really allowed us time to reflect on how amazing my mom was and to tell stories of her sewing projects,” Poole says. “We could feel her spirit here. We cried a bit, but we also talked about the good times. And it felt good to step in her shoes.”
Poole says she’s open to the idea of making more pillowcase dresses in the future, possibly for use at the free health clinics the Foundation supports throughout the United States. For now, she’s happy to have been able to “take time off to make these dresses, learn a new hobby, connect with my aunt, and keep the memory of my mom alive and well.”
“Mom always, always, always made clothes for me when I was growing up, and she made my Halloween costumes,” Poole says. “I wanted to figure it out so I can make Halloween costumes for my son – traditions are very important for me.”
Family Medicine Cares International builds on a tradition of service and provides health care and medical resources to people in need around the world, historically with a focus on Haiti. The program has worked to improve the lives and health of Haitian children. Family Medicine Cares International is expanding its mission in 2022. Learn more in the year-end issue of The Compass.