This 11-year-old girl is sewing handbags to raise money for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico

Her funds will help put water filters in people's homes so they have clean water to drink.

Meital Sternthal is not your typical 11-year-old. The sixth-grader has been sewing handbags to raise money for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico since December and has raised 70 percent of her $4,000 goal so far.

Meital hails from a suburb in central Israel, about 20 miles outside of Tel Aviv. She has spent the majority of her time crafting handbags, pencil cases and other accessories by hand to sell in farmers markets, online and through word of mouth. And she's taking all of her proceeds and donating it to charity.

Meital wearing life jacket sailing in the caribbean

Exploring the underwater wonders of the coral reefs helped Meital appreciate the beauty and purity of the islands. (Photo: Courtesy of Mati Milstein)

But not just any charity. You see, Meital had the childhood equivalent of an epiphany a couple of years ago. Her family took a sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands. Pretty benign, right? Except that this young girl fell in love with the islands, the community, the marine life, the landscapes ... and it left quite an imprint on her.

Meital Steinhal on vacation in the British Virgin Islands Floating on a raft in the Caribbean gave Meital Sternthal a greater purpose. (Photo: Courtesy of Mati Milstein)

Then in 2017, when devastating hurricanes left much of the region without proper infrastructure, Meital, too, was devastated. She wanted desperately to help.

That's when she and her parents came up with the idea to sell her wares herself and donate the proceeds. She started a fundraising page and gave her business a name: Puertotiko, since the word "tik" means "bag" in Hebrew.

"When I heard about the hurricanes, at first I thought about getting in contact with artists there and delivering (the bags) there, so they can sell them," the shy preteen explained to From The Grapevine when we caught up with her by phone. "But then we realized it would be too hard and they might not be able to get it."

So with her parents' support and guidance, Meital took to her trusty sewing machine. It's a passion she's had for the past three years, when she started taking sewing classes. Now, she's using it for something bigger, something she hopes will help a lot of people. To date she's crafted about 50 bags by hand and raised almost $3,000.

Meital sewing handbags

Meital spends much of her time sewing bags and, with her parents' help, selling them online and in farmers markets around town. (Photo: Courtesy of Mati Milstein)

"Meital was saddened to learn that the sun-soaked tropical paradise transformed into a place of suffering for so many residents without any electricity, shelter, clean water, food, medicine, health care and other basic necessities. Some even lost their lives," her mother, Tamar, wrote on the girl's fundraising page.

Meital hard at work at her sewing machine. Meital hard at work at her sewing machine. (Photo: Courtesy of Mati Milstein)

Her mom spoke to the folks at IsraAid, a humanitarian group that's been working in the storm-ravaged areas for months, helping people get back on their feet. They assured her the funds would be used in the best way possible – to ensure Puerto Ricans have access to clean, safe drinking water.

IsraAid volunteers unload supplies from a cargo plane in Puerto Rico. IsraAid volunteers unload supplies from a cargo plane in Puerto Rico. (Photo: Facebook)

"She's very confident in what she's doing," Tamar Sternthal told us about her daughter. "She comes home from school and this is what she does. She sits at that sewing machine all the time. She's a serious kid who wants to make a difference helping people."

To donate to Puertotiko, click here.


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Related Topics: Humanitarian