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Brother helps stitch memories together

Brother Sewing Machines in Europe’s (BSME) has donated an Innov-is V3LE embroidery machine to the Dutch project 13 Mooie Mensen (13 Beautiful People).

The charity will use the machine to stitch ‘MEM bears’ for people with dementia. Family members can purchase a bear and record a personal message for their loved one, which is placed into the back of the handstitched bears. Bears can be made with fabric sourced by 13 Mooie Mensen, or sentimental fabric supplied by the family.

The bears can be extremely comforting to someone with dementia, especially if family members can’t see them for a while – something that has been a problem during 2020 and the global pandemic. This was the reason 13 Mooie Mensen’s founder Grietje van der Heide came up with the idea for them.

Grietje says: “When the Covid-19 pandemic started, I couldn’t continue photographing people. This is when I came up with the idea for the bears. I had been visiting people in nursing homes, but if I couldn’t go in, neither could their family.

“The idea for the bears came from my mother, who had stitched two bears from old clothes years ago. As my mum is the inspiration, I named the bears ‘MEM Bears’. Mem means mother in Frisian, but it also stands for Making Endless Moments.

“I gave the first bear to a woman in her 50s who, due to early-onset dementia, can’t speak anymore. We recorded the voice of her teenage daughter and placed it in the bear. It brings her great comfort.

“When I saw the affect the bear had on this woman, and the one I gave to my mother too, I knew I needed to make them available to as many people as possible. In total we’ve donated 12 MEM-bears to people with dementia and their families. And now we’re busy stitching more!”

Volunteers at 13 Mooie Mensen use the Brother Innov-is V3LE to personalise the bears’ feet. Their old machine was beginning to show signs of wear and tear, and the charity reached out to BSME to see if they could help support their fundraiser to buy a new machine.

When they received the request staff didn’t hesitate. They arranged for the Innov-is V3LE to be delivered to 13 Mooie Mensen so the charity could use the raised funds to support other areas of their work.

Hanneke van Dijk, account manager at BSME said, “When Grietje contacted us we didn’t hesitate to help. All of us have been touched by dementia, whether it’s knowing someone close to use who’s suffered with the disease or having family members who work in older people’s healthcare.

“The work Grietje and her team of volunteers does is amazing. These bears help provide love, comfort and connection for people with dementia and provide peace of mind to those who gift them.”

13 Mooie Mensen was set up by Grietje van der Heide when her mother was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. Grietje has always been passionate about photography but as her mother’s disease progressed, she realised photography was a way to capture the magic moments they had left together.

Grietje says, “People with dementia are people. Like us they need love and connection and as the disease progresses, they need this even more. I started photographing families and their loved ones, so that people struggling with the gradual loss of those close to them have these beautiful moments to cherish.”

For more information about MEM bears and 13 Mooie Mensen please visit - https://13mooiemensen.nl
Two ladies with many teddybears around them.