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On October 23rd, the women from the Sew Great! Program were joined by AFG staff and volunteers to celebrate their completion of a 100 bag order for the Art’s My Bag project. For the past five weeks, the women have been hard at work completing the order for Art’s My Bag, which is a project that will donate bags filled with art supplies to kindergartners in Detroit to promote creativity and participation in the arts. Roughly six weeks ago, Art’s My Bag creator, Lois Cohn, recruited AFG to produce 100 canvas bags. The order allowed the group to purchase supplies to produce the bags and to supply the women in the group with a weekly stipend. Additionally, she provided a donation to launch Sew Great!, a weekly commercial sewing employment training program headed by volunteers and support staff.
The order of 100 bags was Phase 1 of a pilot program that grew from exploring ideas for a social enterprise at AFG so that girls and women can learn valuable employment skills and create goods they can sell to support themselves and their families. “I don’t really have an income, so getting something that can help me pay my bills is great,” Tina, a Sew Great! member shares. “I had just gotten a shut off notice a week before we started, for my lights and gas, and I was able to pay it down with the money I got from Sew Great!”
During the celebration, the women of Sew Great! held a fashion show to give the staff and volunteers a sneak peek on their next venture, making scarves for an upcoming craft show in Dearborn Heights and others around metro Detroit. The women proudly showed off the fleece scarves they plan to sell, in a variety of colors and prints. This will begin Phase 2 of the pilot training project.
After they each received certificates of achievement, the women shared what being a part of Sew Great! and its most recent project has meant to them. Click here to read more. “Sew Great! has improved my self-confidence, which was very low, because now I feel like I can do anything I put my mind to,” shared one woman. The women have also learned a lot during the classes and throughout this project that will help them in their future endeavors. “Something I’ve learned that I will use in the future is patience, because it takes a lot of patience to sew. That is something I didn’t have before I started Sew Great!,” April, another Sew Great member, shared.
There were some more difficult aspects to the project as well. “Working with the other women was challenging because I stay to myself a lot. So, it was a great experience being around other women, especially ones from other cultures,” April shared. Tina agreed and further explained, “Learning to communicate [with the other participants] was challenging, because of the language difference. But we listened to Spanish CDs and had Spanish translations written down to help us communicate.” During Sew Great! meetings, AFG staff members, Leonor, Berta, Gabriella, and Marta, took turns and joined the group to translate important information to the group’s Spanish speaking members to greater improve communication.
At the end of the celebration, all five women sat together, eating lunch and laughing. It was clear that through accomplishing this goal together, they had also grown closer together despite any challenges. For the women, working on this project and exploring their creative side while sewing apparel has had a lasting effect, “Sew Great! has helped me support myself and feel good about myself,” Tina bragged.
AFG would like to thank the volunteers who have dedicated their time to teaching and overseeing the sewing classes and those who donated sewing machines and fabric. If you are interested in supporting the Sew Great! women, they will be selling their scarves on November 7th and 8th at the craft show being held at the Eton Senior Center in Dearborn Heights from 9:00 AM- 4:00 PM.