Sewing class days are some of the best days of the week for Make Welcome teachers and students. We find ourselves greeting each other with hugs and questions about our families and our weeks, what's been going on in our lives and what we're concerned about. There is so much sharing that happens when we gather and a whole lot of laughter.
Those of us who don't speak Burmese or Swahili or French or Ciin miss a lot as the laughter peals across the room. "What did she say? What are you laughing about? What's funny?" Our students may try to explain, but often the humor gets lost in translation. Ah well, we laugh along anyway, glad to be sharing a light moment with these friends whose lives have been full of heavy, hard struggle. The laughter in class is a gift!
Sewing days are also times when our students have the opportunity for uninterrupted concentration on a task that is sometimes quite challenging for them. Many of our Make Welcome women are mothers with small children at home and thanks to a dedicated group of childcare helpers, class time is the one time during the week when the women have a chance to sit and work, to learn something new, to practice and perfect a skill. We share many moments of triumph and accomplishment each week with our students. It may seem a small victory to accurately sew a casing seam in an apron, but it is a happy moment nonetheless.
LG working with Sara and concentrating intently on cutting out a pattern - a new skill for her.
Wah (below) working very hard to sew the curve on her apron strap casing.
Class days are often times of celebration like when a project, like the aprons Kyi and Wah are wearing, is completed. Each woman chose her fabrics from our large supply of donated fabric. They worked hard today finish this apron project, which was designed by our talented teacher/designer, Lisa. I was trying hard to get these two to smile. One thing we've noticed is that our students don't really smile for the camera, but looks like I got at least a little bit of a grin from Kyi and Wah!
We celebrate, too, when a goal is reached. This Wednesday three of our students had reached their attendance goal and brought in the required payment to cover the rest of the subsidized cost of their new sewing machines! We love being able to give women their new machines - machines that have been earned through regular class attendance and a final cash payment on their part.
We'll be telling you more in the weeks ahead about how you can contribute to our Sewing Machine Sponsorship Program. We are eager to raise additional funds to continue this program with our current students and with the new students we anticipate in the months to come. We'll have more details soon for those of you who may be interested in being a part of this great program![. . .]
Friends, we've been quiet for far too long and in the interim, so MUCH has been happening with our Make Welcome sewing classes! Our apologies for the extended silence. How about a long overdue update ...
Since our last blog post (waaay back in November of last year), we finished up the year with a wonderful Christmas party. Lisa led our devotion/discussion Christmas symbols - familiar to most Americans, but perhaps unfamiliar to some of our students. While she shared their roots and meanings, the women enjoyed decorating Christmas cookies in the shapes of these symbols. We exchanged gifts and it truly was an exchange, as the students had pooled their money and purchased beautiful nesting bowl sets for each of the sewing teachers and childcare helpers. We were so moved by their thoughtfulness and generosity. Of course, the kids all had a great time, too, making ornaments, decorating cookies, and opening gifts. Everyone loves a party and our Christmas party has always been a very special time of celebrating with our refugee students!
We began 2016 by taking the month of January to prepare for our move to a new teaching space! In the month before Christmas, we had been in conversations with Project 658, a local refugee service organization that has a community center near a number of the apartment complexes where our students live. We were invited to bring our classes to the center, with the option to increase the number of classes and students we serve. It was a surprising invitation and as we reflect on the its timing, we know it was an answer to prayer and an opportunity that we hope will make our sewing classes more sustainable over the long term. It also gives us wider interaction during the week in our community and the opportunity to partner with others.
We decided to make the move on a trial basis, and in February, launched a new beginner's class on Tuesday mornings. The class quickly filled with students from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Burma, Congo, and Colombia. Our beginners class that started last September continues to meet on Wednesdays, and our more advanced students, who constitute the production team for Journey Home, come on Fridays.
It's been an exciting challenge, figuring out the logistics of teaching three classes a week, but our teaching staff has risen to it! I (Beth) am grateful for all that Lisa, Carla, and Sara have done to make the transition go smoothly. In addition, we have partnered with Project 658 staff to handle childcare and transportation on Tuesday and Wednesdays. Julia continues to oversee all of those logistics for the Friday class, as well as leading training in finances and money management with the Production team on our once a month Friday evening classes. We're learning as we go, grateful for the encouragement and generosity of so many that enable us to offer these classes.
Bright, big space ready to be transformed into a ...
... with plenty of room for cutting tables, ironing stations, storage,
and large group teaching!
It's been a busy, full, interesting last few months and we want to catch you up on some of the other things we've been doing including what we've been sewing in our weekly classes. So stay tuned ... and thanks for reading![. . .]