Stitched together

Sewing groups that offer so much more October 03, 2023

The quiet in the ASC’s main hall is broken as volunteer Alice starts to pull sewing machines, fabric and yarn out of the tall cupboards. Community Engagement Lead Novela Korda is cutting fruit and cake for morning tea. Within fifteen minutes happy voices float up the stairs and people start to arrive for the ASC’s Friday sewing group.

“The main value of our sewing groups is not even the sewing,” says Novela. She marvels at the connections and community that have grown around the Asylum Seekers Centre’s two sewing groups, which are offered as part of a wider community engagement program.

On Monday at the Auburn Centre for the Community, mostly women with young children come together each week to hand sew, craft and create together facilitated by a volunteer, Anne. They are supported by two childcare workers who provide care for the children through the generosity of Choice Preschool who provide these staff in partnership with the ASC.

On Friday at the ASC Newtown, a welcoming group of diverse participants enjoy making clothes, knitting, embroidery and other activities while they talk, relax and enjoy each other’s company. A nutritious community lunch follows and many of the group stay to socialise and have a hot meal together. This group is supported by a grant from the Inner West Council.

“I don’t know much about sewing but I know how important friendships and community are to women,” says Novela. Some of the friendships from the Friday group have continued outside the centre and the group has been out for activities together.

Through an ASC community engagement survey, it was found that many mothers don’t have any opportunities to relax, learn and socialise without their children. The kind offer of support from Choice Preschool and the generosity of a volunteer enabled this group to begin.

Novela says the morning tea is as important as the sewing to creating a sense of community. “Food brings people together and changes everything. A cup of tea and some food is a conversation starter. Often people have not had breakfast so this is a really welcoming space.

In a recent discussion group, some participants said that this group was the only place they could come where they felt welcome and comfortable. Referrals to other services at the Asylum Seekers Centre such as health or employment often come out of the discussions and conversation.

ASC volunteer’s resolution to run Statement from the Asylum Seekers Centre on the conflict in Israel and Palestine