We finally did it - after living 2 years of the lockdown lifestyle, we were able to break the habit and come together as the beautiful, wonderful & diverse community we are!
Afghan Women’s Sewing Circle - since early February we began offering free sewing classes in Blacktown for a group of 20 Afghan women who arrived in Sydney late last year. This project has come together through partnerships with community leaders, the Afghan Community Support Association (ACSA) and CORE Community Services.
After all the restrictions on 2021, we are beyond thrilled to be running four brand new community programs and the Afghan Women’s Sewing Circle is one especially close to our hearts! The classes came about when a community leader – Hogai contacted us, asking if we could help support this group of recently arrived women, some of whom have tailoring experience.
We jumped at the chance to work together looping in a couple of other partner organisations to support with access to a community hall, nearby to the Blacktown Mosque (thanks ACSA!) and sewing machines (thanks CORE!) with The Social Outfit providing our projects team and two sewing trainers, including our Production Manager Joucelen and Marzia, one of our Afghan Sewing Technicians.
In consultation with the community, we have developed an 8-week program that would be easily accessible for the women, designed to offer free sewing classes to support social connectedness and contribute to a more positive settlement experience, while teaching basic textile construction and sewing.
The group bring a diverse range of skills with some of the women learning to use a sewing machine for the first time, some are learning to cut and others are using the time to develop and work on their own projects with resources and support from our team.
These weekly classes offer a stepping stone with pathways to build and consolidate skills suited to women interested in furthering their abilities in sewing with a view to progressing into TSO's earn and learn programs and growing their experience in textile manufacturing.
Marzia, who arrived from Afghanistan four years ago is assisting Joss with the classes. She says, “I feel very good for us to support these women because they need help. They need everything because Australia is a new country for them. Some of them know each other and are staying in the same hotel and they can bring their children with them because we have childcare. My job is to help them learn, some of them don't know how to thread a sewing machine so I will help them and when they don't know the name of something like a bobbin, I can translate.”
Joss shares, “The experience has been challenging but very fulfilling. It’s amazing to see these women who’ve come from such a volatile environment, take pleasure in making themselves a new garment. We’re working with absolute beginners all the way through to skilled tailors. Everyone needs a different kind of support, but we’re working with them to help realise their vision for what they each want to make.”
We’re providing fabrics and trims to the women and are looking to source some domestic machines to donate to them so they can work on their projects at home. If you have a machine you are no longer using please get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Last week The Social Outfit Retail Trainees went on an excursion with THE UPSIDE. CEO Paul Burdekin and his passionate and energetic team offered our young retail trainees a day of work experience in their business including in retail, design, production and even the accounting department...
As 2021 draws to a close, I can’t help but feel relieved in the hope that the new year will be one presenting us all with less challenges.
But I also feel enormously grateful.
I am grateful to The Social Outfit’s passionate, dedicated and hard working team. A team that doubled down in its efforts while more than half of the sewing staff was stuck in LGAs of concerns (hey Joss I’m looking at you) that did not shy away from starring on national TV (wink wink Nat and Raja) did not leave one fundraising stone unturned (well done Kate!), and continued to grow our presence online (yeah Tim) while we danced away our blues on ISO-Breakers (ola Mariam) which saw us deliver a variety of online classes attended by over 100 students from refugee backgrounds.
I am grateful to The Social Outfit’s Board for their continued guidance and advice, helping us keep our eyes on impact and not get lost in the minutia of the daily hiccups.
I am grateful to our fashion industry partners who helped us pull off the best photo-shoot yet (what stars you are, PSP and Diego), showered us with large donations of fabric (shout out to latest donor Camilla & Marc) and helped us save more fabric than ever from land-fill (cheers to MAAS and the iconic Linda Jackson for enabling us to engage 13 women in an Earn & Learn program to manufacture limited-edition tote bags.)
I am grateful to our customers for their purchases - without sales a fashion label wouldn’t survive - but also for their constant cheering us on, their feedback and joyous participation in our community events.
And I am grateful also to the many supporters of our work, spanning from the Atlassian team, to the Atomic 212 team, to Rahul at Citizen Wolf, to Steph & Mark at Publisher Textiles, to the numerous interns, volunteers, artists, models… it takes a village doesn’t it?
I am further grateful to our donors, those who participated in our Wear The Change crowdfunding efforts, and the philanthropic foundations who continue to believe in our work, as well as new donors who choose to fund us, between a variety of worthy non-profits (but yes, we are indeed the most colourful!).
Most of all, I am grateful to our community of refugee and new migrant women who have been teaching me about resilience in the face of any and all challenges. They have shown us how to keep hopeful even when we were about to lose hope. This past year has been hard for everyone but for no group has it been harder than for our Afghan friends.
And while a part of me wishes for a COVID free 2022, my biggest wish is for 2022 to bring change to Afghanistan and to provide Afghans in Australia and elsewhere the assurance their loved one are safe and allowed to be reunited with their families and friends.
Thank you to The Social Outfit community for keeping it real, keeping it creative and making a significant impact to so many lives.
Cheers to the holidays and to a 2022 filled with health and happiness.
Last week our latest group of retail trainees graduated from the Retail Training Program...