{re:late} celebration November 09 2010, 0 Comments

Last May,  21 women from all over the world graduated from Re:new’s sewing program.   After Re:new’s Spring Sale, all of the women of Re:new, students and teachers, along with a smattering of friends and family, had a joyous celebration.  We celebrated the women’s accomplishments and hard work and the sales of their beautiful products!  We gathered together and experienced fellowship and delicious food brought by the refugee women.  From Turkish bread to savory dishes like samosas and rice and lentil soup, we enjoyed every bite.  These women can cook!

The sweetest part of the day, however, was the certificate ceremony.   But let me back up.

In the fall of 2009, these very women had entered the very tiny one-room space called Re:new.  There were a couple tables in the middle of the sun-filled room, which were arranged and rearranged many times to try and optimize the space.  One long wall was filled with white shelves and colorful piles of fabric, the other long wall let in the air and sunshine through the many windows.   An ironing board was crammed into one corner, and the words “excuse me” were uttered a thousand times a class as chairs and booties collided constantly as we maneuvered around the ironing board to get to a sewing machine or a piece of fabric.

It was in this space that many of the women learned to sew.  Most had never used a sewing machine, and so they began the most basic of lessons, sewing straight lines on paper and learning the parts of a sewing machine.  Some were very proficient at hand work, but the machine was a new way to sew and they were eager to learn.

Their attendance was carefully logged, and their portfolios were soon stuffed with various projects from different lessons.  They knew that once they completed a certain number of hours of training, they would be awarded a certificate.  As projects were completed, pictures were taken and each piece was a celebration.

Once the women obtained a certain skill level, they were able to sew products for Re:new.  The proceeds from the sale of these products went (and will always go) to the women and cycle directly back into Re:new Project.

Can you imagine for a moment the feeling of learning valuable skills and then being paid for something you have created?   Maybe we can all say we know that feeling in one way or another.  But have you experienced that feeling in a completely foreign country, a country in which you are struggling to learn the language and assimilate into a new culture, a very expensive culture?   Not many of us can add that detail into our story.   Most importantly, in this space the women, all of us, experienced community.   As each product came into existence, it was surrounded by a woman’s story, a woman’s laughter, a woman’s cry of frustration or a song sung in a different tongue.

So the certificate ceremony on the spring day in May was important.  It was a marker in time for the refugee women, a marker of hope, renewal, and seriously great accomplishment!  For Re:new it marked the end of that very first stage of accomplishing the mission and vision for our community, and the promise of more to come.

As each woman walked up to Rebecca and received a certificate complete with a big hug and radiant smile, applause broke out and pictures were taken.  Some of the women spoke, and as we listened we fell into a respectful silence.  ThanksgivingPeaceHope.  These are no small things.  They are valuable and important, things we all need to experience and feel.  Have you ever received a certificate for an accomplishment?  It has your name on it.  It has your achievement documented in a fancy script.  It represents that you are somebody who has accomplished something important.  Some of the refugee women have never had their name on anything important.  Imagine that.  That’s why this ceremony was joyously important.  That’s why Re:new continues to be important.  Re:new provides a space to relate, recycle and recreate.   This post has been about the relate part of our mission, the most treasured and valuable aspect of Re:new!