Turn Your Hand

One of the most remarked about traits of a Peace Corps Volunteer is our ability to adapt. There are the obvious things; language, culture, and food. Then there are the less discernible things, among them being our attitude toward a lack of resources. Back in America, if a person needs an end table for their couch, or a tiki torch for their patio, they’re simply going to go to a store and pick one up. But in the Peace Corps, it’s not that easy. For one thing, we have our budget to consider. For another, lack of personal transportation makes carrying these items a challenge. And finally, in our deep rural communities, sometimes what we need can’t even be found.

And so we make do.

The Peace Corps has, by no intention of its own, produced a group of creative individuals, capable of taking every day objects and turning them into something new. In Jamaica, there is a phrase for that – tun ya han, mek fashion – and the locals here could teach us a thing or two. Regardless, we’ve got plenty of ingenuity to go around.

In a recent post on her own blog, another PCJ Volunteer asked us to submit pictures and descriptions of our crafts, and I was widely impressed by what I saw. It’s nice to know I’m in the company of such creative people! Below, I’ve included a list of some of my own tun ya han, mek fashion items, but I highly recommend you check out these other crafty items too!

Cat Stuff

Cat scratching box
DSCN1436Created by cutting strips of cardboard, and gluing them in a shoebox lid.
My shoebox lid is the top to a case of Cliff Bars that were included in a care package,
reinforced with bit of duct tape

DSCN1495 Litter scoops – These are water bottles, cut to suit my need. I’ve got one for scooping the nasties and another for scooping the sand I have to put in.

Cat toys
Crocheted mousie – stuffed with a scandal bag
Crochet jellyfish – stuffed with a scandal bag
Crocheted desk ornament – he won’t play with this
Sock buddy – worn out sock, scrap yarn, and stuffed with… can you guess?

School Materials

Vowel wheels
DSCN1438The individual letter wheels are made from Pringles Cans, a very small amount of poster board, and some clear tape. The inside is obviously a water bottle.

Letter Tiles and Dominoes
I saved my cereal boxes and cut them up. I used a bit more of my poster board to create a white space, but you could just as easily use the brown side alone.

Chalk jar  – Cheez Whiz jar

Good recyclablesDSCN1368

Scandal Bag Dispenser
Made with fifteen to twenty scandal bags (and there’s still plenty to spare!), two elastic hair ties, and crocheted together to make a scandal bag dispenser.

Q-tip jar – Cheez Whiz jar
School materials


Bandana Throw Pillows – two bandanas sewn together, stuffed with pillow stuffing (because, unfortunately, a scandal bag won’t suit every need)

Friendship Bracelets

Baby Blanket
(Please note the kitten in the corner)

Curtain Tie – Crocheted with a little bit of scrap yarn

4 thoughts on “Turn Your Hand

  1. […] Widest Variety: April  Letter Tiles, Crocheted Tie, and Container: “The majority of my crafts have been school supplies, but I didn’t want to go crazy with teacher promotion. I’ve included one pic of my letter tiles, which were made from cereal boxes. Another picture is a cheez whiz jar serving as a container to hold my q-tips, and I have another at school which holds my chalk. Third, a little crocheted tie to hold my back curtains. And not included in the pictures is a scratching post for my new kitty, made from a cardboard box. I’ve also crocheted a scandal bag holder out of scandal bags.” You can see these additional creations and more on April’s blog post, Turn Your Hand. […]

  2. Back in America, if a person needs an end table for their couch, or a tiki torch for their patio, they’re going to cruise the neighborhood for free stuff by the curb. A guy in my neighborhood takes pix of abandoned stuff *and* writes haiku about it [!] Cool, huh? https://www.facebook.com/groups/135885926422466/
    Nice job on the cat toys, btw. Oh yeah – I use old sneaker laces for curtain ties. Not as classy as the crocheted kind, but hey, it works…

  3. You are sooo right-we really do not appreciate how much easier and simpler life is for us! Love the ingenuity! These are times you will always cherish! Thanks for sharing your experience with me! There was no Peace Corps yet when I finished college. The closest I came to it was National Teachers Corp in 1966 or 1967.

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