Sewing Confidence, Manchester, NH: facilitating the social and economic empowerment of resettled refugee women since 2009.
Blending fabrics, blending cultures. We provide classes in hand and machine sewing techniques, product design, applied English language, literacy, and cooperative business development. Seamstresses from seven countries learn to sew for their own benefit and have the option to earn supplemental income through sales of handbags, clothing and house-wares at festivals and fair-trade retail outlets. Our distinctive products blend repurposed western fabrics with African and Asian fabrics and styles. Collaborative design sessions encourage artistry and innovation. Participants are also fulfilling specialty orders for custom work. New for 2013: a production class, where advanced seamstresses will learn assembly techniques and employment readiness skills. Participants contribute to business management decisions: setting goals, planning for sales and critiquing systems. Business meetings give women voice and foster leadership.
Resourcefulness, resilience, motivation: The women of Sewing Confidence have endured lives of war, exile, and deprivation. 80% of our participants have had little or no formal education and many also suffered constraints and abuses resulting from gender bias. In spite of these hardships, the women took care of their families wherever they found themselves: planting gardens, starting small businesses, trading with their neighbors. They approach their lives in the United States with the same resourcefulness, resilience and motivation to succeed. Sewing Confidence offers these women a chance to gain the skills necessary to achieve employment readiness and self-sufficiency in their new community.
Success abounds: Sewing Confidence products are now well-known in the region: colorful clothing, handbags, totes and house wares with unique designs and ornaments can be found at Bonafide Green Goods in Concord, Milltown Marketplace and the Currier Museum Gift Store in Manchester and at seasonal fairs and festivals. All twenty of the original students are employed: many now work full time with benefits, three of the women work in a knitting factory and two take orders for custom-made African outfits which they sew at home. Women who have completed advanced training tutor students in beginning classes and we have aspiring teachers in all groups. Experienced seamstresses become mentors for beginners.
It takes a Community: Sewing Confidence works with Manchester service and immigrant organizations, coordinating scheduling and job training services and collaborating on special events. Our partners include: the International Institute of NH, English for New Americans, Holy Cross Family Learning Center and Southern New Hampshire Services. Through a partnership with SNHU’s Service Learning Center and Business School, Sewing Confidence participates in fashion shows, sales, and student-initiated business projects. We thank our funders: Women’s Fund of NH, Gone Giving Fund, Bridge Builders Foundation, Delany Sister’s Foundation, St. Mary’s Bank, TD Charitable Foundation and over 100 donors!