Students practice and improve their sewing, knitting, crocheting, beading, and English skills.

At Refugees Helping Refugees, we develop opportunities for our students to learn and take part in meaningful activities. We recognize our students as having assets, not just problems. Specifically, we see that many in our community bring specific skills—including cooking, baking, and sewing. Sewing is especially, but not exclusively, a strength among refugee women.

When it comes to sewing, many students do not have to start from scratch. Even students who have never operated an electrical sewing machine are often quite adept at mending, stitching, and working with fabric. They approach the machines with confidence.

The Sewing Program helps students build their vocabulary while learning how to make a variety of products, all while creating a sense of community. Instructors seek out students’ ideas and welcome their design inputs. Unlike the English language classroom where students encounter right/wrong answers, sewing leaves room for creativity. Few of our students have access to creative outlets, and a population that has experienced displacement and other forms of trauma can benefit from the healing power of creativity.

The Sewing Program also counts as vocational training for many students. Following our mission of creating self-sufficient refugee individuals, these training opportunities are a constructive requirement for earning government benefits. The trainings will ultimately prepare refugees to enter the workforce, with many even opening their own businesses. The trainings include sewing and cooking classes, cleaning and facility maintenance training, resume writing, and job searching. This is made possible thanks to a cooperation with “RochesterWorks!” 

Nay Wah showing us her projects from RHR’s sewing classes (hat and bag)!