Written by Iona Turner, LHI Refugee Center Women’s Safe Space Program Manager.
(She’s been with us for almost a year. She’s incredible!)
BACKGROUND: One of the three main programs at the Serres community centre is the Women’s Safe Space. This is a welcoming space for the women to study, participate in yoga and fitness, and, for three hours a day, attend open facilitation sessions. During this time the volunteers facilitate activities with the aim of providing psychosocial support, re-establishing peer connections, creating a safe supportive network, and alleviating some of the stressors of camp life.
The primary focus of this time is to provide psychosocial support to the women, however with some activities, the workshop goes far beyond that. This was something we experienced at the end of July when we threw out our usual timetable and dedicated a whole week to sewing workshops. This was made possible thanks to the donation of sewing machines, supplies such as elastic and thread, and the tailoring expertise of one volunteer.
The effects of this week went much deeper than simply receiving fabric. The more experienced sewers got strait to work crafting beautiful dresses for their children, or long skirts for themselves. Those less confident sat in small groups, taking their time and enjoying a more social approach to the activity. Two ladies would sit on either side of the machine, feeding the fabric through, a third would turn the hand crank, and often a fourth would sit by offering instruction and advice. Some family members chose to sew their pieces together in order to create a larger item of clothing, teenage girls collected their material, then left it in a bag with their name on so their mothers could come sew it for them later, some women turned away from clothes completely, instead creating table covers or bed linens.
Women who did not know how to sew could be taught by those who did, in turn empowering the teacher. A mother made a beautiful princess dress for her oldest daughter, an item which will in turn be passed down to her two younger sisters. Older ladies sewed long skirts with elasticated waists, something harder to find in the markets and at distributions. For many women we met that week it was their first time attended the LHI community centre, and several have continued to attend. In the month since sewing week we have seen an increase in attendance overall, and a daily demand for the use of the sewing machines.
We are so grateful to those who donated sewing machines and supplies, those who donated fabric, or the funds to purchase it, and the volunteers who facilitated this busy week! This includes Dolls of Hope, Carry the Future, LDS Charities (Tim and Dorothy Carroll, specifically!) and many individuals.
Interested in donating funds for fabric or sewing machines? We’d be delighted! Please contact us at email@example.com and we’ll get working together.