The ABQFI Apparel Manufacturing Boot Camp has a primary goal of manufacturing and donating first quality goods to needy individuals and organizations in New Mexico, USA. Mostly we make coats for kids. New Mexico is dead last in the United States for nearly all economic and social indicators. Most of our products are donated in an area where the annual income is of $11,000 for a family of 4. Really. There is a longer and much more personal reason we make coats for kids but I’m not brave enough to write about it yet.
In order to be able to donate goods, we rely on volunteers. Training volunteers to manufacture these products then becomes a secondary goal. Hopefully our workers then go on to create opportunities for others, enriching their own communities.
Who is being served?
Poor people get a lot of junk, product donated by brands that consumers think are very philanthropic. The brands win (consumers’ hearts) but it’s the poor who lose. The poor lose because people think that a need -say, shoes- is solved by Joe’s Shoes donation. In fact, consumers think they’re helping when they buy Joe’s Shoes because the brand donates a pair to the poor. The problem is that Joe’s shoes are so poorly made and of the cheapest materials that they literally fall apart on the first day. The poor lose because other brands or people don’t donate shoes thinking that Joe’s Shoes has solved the problem. This is a situation that ABQFI will not contribute to. Needy people deserve the dignity and respect of our best efforts and we will deliver nothing less. This is not negotiable.
Speaking of (albeit indirectly), you’ll never find photos of kids wearing their coats on our site. I wish we could, it would certainly inspire people to donate. However, I can’t condone poverty porn. I believe that even as donors, we don’t have the right to pat ourselves on the back by exploiting other people’s neediness. And I’m not saying that other people and organizations are evil poverty pornographers if they do post photos; it’s just something I haven’t been able to come to terms with. Perhaps my thinking will evolve.
Education versus Outcomes
At our first event, I chanced to overhear someone making a critical quality short cut (and tried to conceal it) and saying that “it didn’t matter” because “the important thing was that the team was learning how to manufacture”. This is false. Our “customer” comes first. In the event there is a conflict between our “customer’s” interest and the learning opportunity we provide to volunteers, our “customer” takes precedence. We take no short cuts with our “customers” products. In the event one discovers non-conforming or defective parts, an attendee is required to confer with their coach immediately. One is certainly encouraged to come up with a strategy to solve the problem but if anyone is discovered orchestrating a work around to conceal a defect, they will be escorted from the premises.
Again I stress that attendees must understand that while skill development is desired (you can’t make the products without it), skill acquisition is not the primary goal. The primary goal is to deliver quality products to our “customers”. In the event there is a conflict between the competing demands of the learning experience and a quality product outcome, the quality outcome will take precedence. In essence, attendees are not paying for a learning experience. They are paying the expenses of the event.
Policies: the fine print
If you would like to attend one of our events, here is the fine print buried at the bottom of the application.
- You understand this is not a workshop, seminar or symposium event with break out sessions, round table discussions and networking coffee breaks. You are signing up for a hands on production experience in a real sewing factory where you may be on your feet much of the day, manufacturing a product that we will donate to charity. You may even get dirty or damage your clothing. For a visual tour of what boot camp is like, see this documentary.
- You understand that we do not guarantee you will be trained on tasks that interest you as our primary objective is to manufacture products to donate to charity.
- You agree to perform assigned duties even though these may not be your first, second or heaven forbid, even your third choice. We will try to place you in roles you enjoy and feel challenged in because we will get the best of you but this is not always possible. Please try to understand that we are unhappy too if we can’t please you.
- You agree that any work materials, forms or other intellectual property used in the administration and operations of this event is not to be removed from the facility, nor to be photographed, reproduced, or described in any way nor by any means.
- You understand that this event is not an opportunity for a free stealthy consultation. This factory is owned by Apparel Technical Services, which as a for profit business, is happy to arrange consultation with you on a fee paid basis.
- You agree to limit your interest and inspection to the events at hand. This is a real factory; we set our customer’s work and materials aside but it is not always possible to hide everything from prying eyes. In part, this includes machines, equipment, tools, materials, patterns, samples, books and other work materials that have no bearing on the event. If in doubt, ask if you can take a closer look at something. Under no circumstance are you to investigate items that are deliberately put away and concealed from view, in part boxes, shelving, and covered clothing racks.
- You agree to bring any required tools and or supplies. In the event you do not wish to check a bag, your items can be sent directly to the factory. The supplies page has more details.
- You agree to complete the reading assignments and any other requested preparation ahead of time. Six weeks prior to arrival, you will complete the quiz (link will be emailed after your deposit is paid) because we need to measure your retention, ability to follow instructions (failure to do so is very dangerous in a factory) and to demonstrate your willingness to invest in this process as much as we will invest in you. The quiz is not difficult but we need to be sure you have prepared ahead of time.
- You agree to read and follow the dress code. If the dictates of your faith conflict with our dress code, call to inform us. Otherwise, please do not put us in the embarrassing position of not allowing you in the factory. Please do not leave it up to us to ask you to remove personal accessories (like facial piercings or dangling earrings) or request that you take a shower (we have one on site). All of this unpleasantness can be avoided by reading the dress code and following its instructions.
Payment & Cancellation
Although this is a not for profit charity event hosted by ABQFI, a 501c3 charitable organization, we collect a fee to offset event expenses and materials used in the making of this product. Our tax ID is 82-3773613. It also appears on your invoice. Your fee (less the cost of lunches) is tax deductible.
Payment: If you win a slot in the lottery, you’ll be sent an invoice for the event fees of which a non-refundable $50 application fee must be paid by 5 PM (MST) on the third day to guarantee your slot. The balance of the fees are due 6 weeks before the event start date. In the event you are unable to qualify (pass a simple online quiz based on the required reading), all fees less the application fee will be refunded.
Cancellation: Should you need to cancel, we cannot guarantee a full refund if less than 6 weeks before the event. If we are successful in filling your slot (and we usually are), we will refund 75% of monies paid less the $50 application fee.