We didn’t have our Make Welcome class this week. We usually schedule class for three of the four Fridays each month and take one week off. While we’d love to have class every week, we do need time to plan, prepare, and do other behind the scenes work.
The word to describe this week for me is collaboration. Make Welcome was invited to participate in the first of the Building Integrated Communities lunch forums hosted by Project 658, a refugee services organization that has just opened a center here in Charlotte. The lunch was an opportunity to meet and connect with others who are working in the refugee community here and find ways to support, encourage, and collaborate to serve the community. Over lunch, we talked at our tables a bit about what it means to build an integrated community and we did a lot of connecting! We met people that work in education and housing, people who help non-profits get started, and those who work with special needs kids. We met another craft entrepreneur and shared some ideas about ways we might work together. We heard about the refugee youth programs and a catering school. Finally, we listened as a refugee couple from Ethiopia told their personal story of the struggles, obstacles, and joys in coming to this country. I expect that every person at the lunch walked away encouraged. I know my head was buzzing with ideas about how Make Welcome might be a part of a thriving, integrated, healthy community here in our city.
That time of connecting with others is important as we find our way. We continue to define what we are doing by trying ideas, listening to our students, discerning needs and desires, and stepping out. Hearing what others are doing, and seeing ways we might glean from their experience, benefit from their wisdom, and perhaps even partner with them gives us a wider vision for the work of Make Welcome. We have a sewing class, yes. But, it is so much more.
That is collaboration on a larger scale. This week, I (Beth) have been collaborating on a smaller scale, too. As we design products to be sewn in our Make Welcome classes and sold through Journey Home crafts, I have to make samples. This involves taking ideas we have and sewing them. I have to figure out how, for example, to sew a rice bag wrist clutch, and then work out the best way to teach the women how to do it. I have to break down and order the steps and determine what skills are needed to make this item. I have to develop a teaching plan and make sure I am not skipping important details.
I have found that to be a good teacher, I need to learn and practice and explore. Sewing samples gives me the opportunity to do this. I am also a quilter and this work helps me be a better teacher (I hope!) It was in my quilting that collaboration on small scale happened this week. I am currently working on a project that requires me to make a quilt with a limited set of fabrics. As I've worked with on this quilt, I've been posting pictures online. I've gotten feedback from others and today, a friend even dropped everything she was doing and came over to help me figure out a quilt design. It was so helpful to have another set of eyes and another brain to help me think through the design. When it was time for my friend to leave, we were both refreshed by our collaboration and I was further along the path toward a finished quilt.
Collaboration is so important – in big and small ways. As I think about the women in our Make Welcome class, I want the efforts of this week to make a difference for them. I want the connections we made at the lunch to be helpful to the women. I also want them to experience the joy of creative collaboration as their sewing skills increase and their creative confidence expands. I want them to enjoy getting together with others to try out ideas and reach for creative solutions – in their sewing work and in the bigger challenges they face in life. How I hope and pray that Make Welcome will continue to be a place that fosters this kind of creative, encouraging, collaborative community.
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Today was the first Make Welcome class of 2015. After a lengthy holiday break, we were glad to welcome our students back! We never know til the class begins just how many students will come. Today was no different. We had three students, but those that didn't make it had very good reasons! Just before class, we got a text from one student's husband saying that Th. Th. was in labor and they were on their way to the hospital. Another student was babysitting their son. A third student, who is expecting her third child any day now, didn't feel up to going out in the cold and rain. A fourth has a new job. So we were a small, but eager and engaged group!
Though we've haven't had class for a while, we've been far from idle. We've been brainstorming, "pinning" ideas, and sourcing supplies. Julia has been working hard on logistics and marketing and sales ideas and tools. I (Beth) have been designing prototypes and sewing samples: rice bag clutches and totes, napkins, table runners, and scarves. Lisa, who is usually a beehive a creative ideas, has been battling illness for several weeks. She was thankful for Burmese chicken soup, delivered one day by our student, M. I guess chicken soup means love and comfort in many cultures and cuisines.
The first order of business in class today was looking at the samples and seeking suggestions from the women about how to make them better. What would they change? What do they like? What do they most want to learn to sew? They had great ideas, of course. "Make outside pockets." Make the bottom of the tote wider." "Combine these colors." We are so eager for our Make Welcome class to be a time for our students to express their creativity and try new ideas in an atmosphere of encouragement and support. We also want them to see the creative work of others, so after discussing the samples, we looked at an antique quilt and talked about how quilts are constructed. We have had an inquiry about a quilt commission, so that may be another avenue of creative endeavor and hopefully, in the not too distant future, income generation for the women.
Next we turned to sewing machine care and maintenance. We decided to teach the students how to do the routine servicing on our Baby Lock BL9 machines. We learned to remove and clean the hook race and feed dogs, how to oil the machine, and how to change the needles. Several of our students have purchased their own machines through our Sewing Machine Sponsorship program, so today's lesson was useful to them in learning how to care for their machines.
Bursting with ideas for spring and Mother's Day gift giving (which will be sold through Journey Home Crafts and the Journey Home Crafts etsy shop) and with our machines now in tip-top shape, clean and oiled and ready to sew, we are excited about the upcoming weeks in the Make Welcome sewing class. We look forward to seeing the students that didn't make it today and we can't wait to meet those new babies! It's not just a class. It's a growing community of learning together, developing deeper friendships, serving one another, empowering our refugee artisans women, and sharing the love of Christ.
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