Bags, boxes, and bins of donated fabric have been sorted, patterns have arrived, curriculum is being tweaked, and class lists finalized. We are getting ready for another year of Make Welcome Refugee Sewing School classes and we’re pretty excited about seeing our returning students and meeting new ones.
We will offer our Beginner Sewing Class to new students again this fall and are currently going through our stack of student registrations to finalize the class list. We wish we could offer the class to every single person who signs up, but space, machines, and childcare (more on that later) limit our class size to 8 students. We have applications from women (and men!) from Congo, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Burma and we look forward to meeting and getting to know the 8 students who will be a part of this new class.
For the first time, we will offer a Garment Sewing Class. Students who have completed our Beginner 1 Class and who have the skill level to move on will be sewing women’s, men’s, and children’s garments, using patterns donated by two independent pattern companies. Oliver+S, maker of children’s patterns, and Colette, maker of women’s and men’s patterns, both have the reputation of producing patterns that are especially geared toward teaching new skills. We are currently sewing a sample of the very cute Oliver+S After School Pants and Top pattern to familiarize ourselves with the pattern and can’t wait to use it, and the other fun patterns, in our Garment Sewing Class.
Another new class offering this year is our Beginner 2 Giving Back class. For students who have completed our Beginner 1 class but need more practice sewing simple items, we will be repeating some of our beginner projects which we will donate to other refugee services: tote bags for students in ESL classes, aprons for Project 658 Cooking School students, and pillowcases to welcome new refugee arrivals.
Our Advanced Sewing Class and Production Team returning students will continue sewing for items that will provide supplemental income for their families as they produce items for businesses like Journey Home Crafts, Amahoro Burundi, and others. We hope that many of them will have the opportunity to participate in an Artisan Christmas Fair this year and look forward to helping them to expand and hone their skills. This group will also be doing a bit of garment sewing and beginning to learn some alteration skills.
It’s going to be a full week of teaching and learning with classes Tuesday through Friday. We are almost ready but we do have some, as yet, unmet needs for the fall …
We have some classroom supplies needs – thread guides, sewing machine needles, bobbins and more. We have a Make Welcome Refugee Sewing School Amazon Wish List and we invite you to take a look and purchase from the list if you’re interested in helping us supply our sewing classroom. Thanks in advance!
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H, from Vietnam, wondered aloud why her life is so hard. Why did her husband leave her? Why does her 21 year old son have kidney disease and have to go to dialysis every week? Why did she have stomach problems two weeks ago and go to the emergency room and then get a bill for $4000? Why did she have to leave her home country?
F, from Afghanistan, brought her brother's paperwork and we looked over the Department of Defense form that will have to be filled out in order to try and locate his American supervisors. We came up with a list of things she will have to find out from him in order to complete the forms. His life is in danger. He just wants to bring his family to this country to be safe. F is desperate for any help she can find to help make that happen.
T, from Nepal, told me about her husband's friend's mother who died yesterday from blood cancer at age 52. There will be a three day wake which, she said, is very hard on the family.
How little it seems our sewing can do in the midst of problems like these. What a small thing it is to sit beside a woman and show her how to thread a sewing machine. And yet ... I have a waiting list of many more beginning students than we can accommodate in the new classes we'll add in September. Women who want to be in a sewing class for two hours in hopes, of what?
Full time employment at a living wage? I can't promise that.
Their own business to provide a fair wage income for their family? I can't promise that.
Solutions to the problems like the ones I heard today. I can't begin to promise any of that.
But there are things that after three years of teaching sewing classes to refugee women I can offer ...
Teachers that will share the love of Christ in word and deed; who will offer not only their knowledge but their hearts.
Teachers that will patiently walk beside students as they learn new skills and show them over and over and over again, as many times as it takes, how to thread the machine, where to put the bobbin, how to sew a simple seam. As many times as it takes.
Teachers that will go beyond the classroom into their homes and become friends. Teachers who will walk beside them, trying to learn and understand their struggles and helping with needs as we are able or pointing them to others who know better than we do how to deal with their problems.
Laughter. I can offer them laughter. Plenty of it. And smiles. And hugs.
Creativity. I can offer them the opportunity to stretch their dormant creative wings, to try new things and not have to worry about judgement. I can offer encouragement support, and applause for their efforts.
I can offer a place that is safe and warm and welcoming, where hurts can perhaps be salved for a while to the rhythm of a sewing machine. I can offer that balm, and hope for healing for women who have experienced traumas I can barely imagine.
Classes are over for this term for those of us who work with Make Welcome. We need a break to refresh and recharge, to plan and prepare so that we will be ready for a new term of classes come September, when the learning and loving and growing will continue, Lord willing.
We can't pay hospital bills, or heal kidney failure or cancer, or bring families fearful for their lives to safety. But we can show up with fabric and scissors and sewing machines and instruction and love. That's what we'll do and we'll wait, expectantly, to see how God will work in our midst
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