We Give Thanks!

We give thanks for Fridays because, for Make Welcome, that means class day!!!

Beth arrives first with a car full of sewing machines, fabric, and other supplies. She unlocks the door and starts lugging stuff in and up the stairs. Julia arrives shortly after, also with a car full, but instead of sewing machines, her car is full of toys, games, and other necessities for the kids. Together with Julia's amazing and helpful kiddos, everything gets carried inside and up the stairs to our classrooms and kid spaces.

Sewing machines get taken out of boxes and plugged in. Ironing boards and irons pulled out of the storage closet. Scissors, pincushions, and fabric distributed.

In the nursery, car tracks, duplos, and baby and toddler friendly toys are placed around. In the Pre-k room, pictures, books, toys, and craft supplies come out.

Julia's kids are experts in setting up and before long, we've worked together to get everything ready for our students and their children to arrive.

More volunteers and students arrive and after moms settle babies and toddlers in their classrooms, we gather in the sanctuary for a devotion and announcements. Then it's up to the sewing classrooms to work and learn!

Around noon, it's time to pack up the machines, return items to the storage closet or back to the cars they came in. Time to take women and children home, time to vacuum the sticker strewn and thread flecked carpets, time to say good-bye til next week.

Some days, like today, everything runs smoothly. The machines purr away, the children play - a beehive of happy, productive work and play. Some days, things don't go quite so smoothly. Needles break, babies are sad, seams get ripped out, children get sick.

Our Friday motto has become, in the words of our student, Mya, "On Fridays, we are happy!"  Regardless of how our day has gone, we are happy and grateful for the privilege of being together with our refugee friends and their children. Thankful for the spirit of generosity and cooperation, thankful for a day to teach and learn skills, encourage our friends, and just BE together.

We Give Thanks!

Today, we are giving thanks for our volunteers. They are a rock star group of selfless, tireless, generous women and we would not exist without them. Here are some of the many tasks our volunteers do:

Help teach sewing class

Drive students to and from class

Help set-up and clean up both sewing class rooms and childcare rooms

Lug stuff!

Prep fabric ahead of class

Gather supplies

Teach the ABC's

Sing songs

Design curriculum for both the sewing class and the Pre-k program

Purchase supplies

Change diapers

Comfort little ones

Rock babies to sleep

Pick up completed items from women's homes

Help with questions about everything from rent to Medicaid to school enrollment

Organize rides

Organize special gatherings like Make Welcome dinners and our fun Christmas party

Solicit donations

Clean and oil sewing machines

Read books and play games with the children

Pray

Encourage

Love!

I'm sure there are other tasks I've left off the list. There is so much to be done, week in and week out. We are incredibly thankful for our wonderful, dedicated volunteers.

We Give Thanks!

It has been said that Thanksgiving should not just be an annual holiday, but rather, an eternal lifestyle. Those of us who follow Christ should be filled with thanks, overflowing with gratitude, eternally focused on the "good and perfect gifts" we have received from God. But we need reminders ... and the annual holiday is a good reminder.

Here at Make Welcome, we are the very grateful recipients of many, many, many, many, many good ... indeed wonderful ... and abundant gifts. So, during the month of November, we want to recount the gifts we've received and publicly say thank you! If you'd like to join in with us and share some of your thanks in the comments, please do!

For starters, we want to give thanks for our students!!!

We have the great privilege of working each week with a group of refugee women from Burma. Each of them has a story of hardship and suffering, of pain, loss, loneliness, trauma, and grief. Yet, they are some of the most courageous, resilient, giving, tenacious women we have ever met. They are eager to learn, hard-working, encouraging, and fun. They laugh a lot in class. We are very grateful that we get to work week in and week out with these precious women, very grateful that they want to be a part of the Make Welcome family. Yes, we are so very grateful for our students!

Our Littlest Learners

It has been said that Thanksgiving should not just be an annual holiday, but rather, an eternal lifestyle. Those of us who follow Christ should be filled with thanks, overflowing with gratitude, eternally focused on the "good and perfect gifts" we have received from God. But we need reminders ... and the annual holiday is a good reminder.

Here at Make Welcome, we are the very grateful recipients of many, many, many, many, many good ... indeed wonderful ... and abundant gifts. So, during the month of November, we want to recount the gifts we've received and publicly say thank you! If you'd like to join in with us and share some of your thanks in the comments, please do!

For starters, we want to give thanks for our students!!!

We have the great privilege of working each week with a group of refugee women from Burma. Each of them has a story of hardship and suffering, of pain, loss, loneliness, trauma, and grief. Yet, they are some of the most courageous, resilient, giving, tenacious women we have ever met. They are eager to learn, hard-working, encouraging, and fun. They laugh a lot in class. We are very grateful that we get to work week in and week out with these precious women, very grateful that they want to be a part of the Make Welcome family. Yes, we are so very grateful for our students!

Thread and Banks: This Week's Production Class

After a summer break for the Make Welcome sewing class, we were very happy to start again today. For the record, we didn't take the summer completely off. There was plenty of planning, sorting and organizing donated fabric and supplies, sample sewing, outreach to new students, visits with old students, and logistics work. We were glad for the time to get many behind-the-scenes tasks accomplished and are ready for another great year in the Make Welcome sewing classroom!

This year, for the first time, we are running two classes concurrently. We can do this because we have two new sewing teachers. Welcome, Carla and Jennifer! Both women were part time volunteers last year and we are so glad they have agreed to increase their involvement with Make Welcome by teaching the new Beginners Sewing Class. Over the summer, we formalized our sewing lessons into an 8 week project based curriculum and we look forward to sharing weekly updates on how our new students are doing!

Carla (above) with one of our new little ones

Jennifer (below) teaching KKH how to thread the machine

Our returning students actually started last week with a Sewing Skills Assessment which they continued this week. The assessment helps both students  and teachers know how we are doing. We are proud of the progress these women have made and we look forward to even greater quality of work, precision, skill, and efficiency. This year, we hope that many of our returning students will join the Stay at Home Mom Manufacturing team for our sister business, Journey Home. More news on that exciting development in the weeks ahead!

Lisa leading Z and CN in the skills assessment

Returning students concentrating on Zipper Pouch project as part of their assessment

There were smiles and hugs all around this morning, lots of laughter, plenty of concentration, and good work accomplished! Welcome back, everyone. It's going to be a great year full of learning, friendship, and more!

Classes Begin Again!

After a summer break for the Make Welcome sewing class, we were very happy to start again today. For the record, we didn't take the summer completely off. There was plenty of planning, sorting and organizing donated fabric and supplies, sample sewing, outreach to new students, visits with old students, and logistics work. We were glad for the time to get many behind-the-scenes tasks accomplished and are ready for another great year in the Make Welcome sewing classroom!

This year, for the first time, we are running two classes concurrently. We can do this because we have two new sewing teachers. Welcome, Carla and Jennifer! Both women were part time volunteers last year and we are so glad they have agreed to increase their involvement with Make Welcome by teaching the new Beginners Sewing Class. Over the summer, we formalized our sewing lessons into an 8 week project based curriculum and we look forward to sharing weekly updates on how our new students are doing!

Carla (above) with one of our new little ones

Jennifer (below) teaching KKH how to thread the machine

Our returning students actually started last week with a Sewing Skills Assessment which they continued this week. The assessment helps both students  and teachers know how we are doing. We are proud of the progress these women have made and we look forward to even greater quality of work, precision, skill, and efficiency. This year, we hope that many of our returning students will join the Stay at Home Mom Manufacturing team for our sister business, Journey Home. More news on that exciting development in the weeks ahead!

Lisa leading Z and CN in the skills assessment

Returning students concentrating on Zipper Pouch project as part of their assessment

There were smiles and hugs all around this morning, lots of laughter, plenty of concentration, and good work accomplished! Welcome back, everyone. It's going to be a great year full of learning, friendship, and more!

Playdoh Can Save The World (Or At Least Provide A Preschool Readiness Program)

We are gearing up for our third year of Make Welcome! Each year has brought new developments to our program as we continue to grow our outreach to the refugee community. Through the month of August, we'll be highlighting some of these new and/or redesigned initiatives.

Providing Sanity

One of the aspects of Make Welcome that we are particularly proud of is the childcare program. We’ve made it a priority to provide this. We know  that so many young refugee moms are excluded from many other programs because they aren’t able to bring their little children along and don’t have other babysitting options. Often their husbands work long hours and their apartment complexes don’t have a safe place to play - so they’re basically stuck indoors much of the day, most of the week.

At Make Welcome, these refugee moms get a morning out. Our awesome childcare volunteers watch over their precious kiddos and play games, mold playdoh, read books, blow bubbles, and rock babies. The moms get to sew, talk, laugh and generally just enjoy several hours with other adults and no kids (usually) in tow. Anyone who has been a stay at home mom to young kids knows how important such times are to your sanity!

Moving from Childcare to Preschool Readiness

This year, we’re adding a new aspect to our program. We’re going to provide a Preschool Readiness program to the 3-5 year olds, teaching them alphabet, numbers, shapes, colors and more! We’re really excited about this new initiative...but we need your help.

 

It takes a lot of Playdoh, markers, stickers and toys  to keep our preschoolers busy. We rely on supply donations, and we’ve got a long list this year! Do you want to help stock our new preschool class? Then head over to our Preschool Amazon wishlist and send some new markers, legos or stickers our way. Even if you  never get a chance to see the class in action, know that your supplies donation will be greatly appreciated by kids AND volunteers alike!

Shop the Make Welcome Amazon Wishlist.

Volunteers Needed: Be a Part of our Story

13 women trained to sew with another 7 on the waiting list. 15+ children who have been part of our childcare program. Multiple projects completed, including tote bags, coffee cozies, infinity scarves. Piles of donated fabric received and upcycled into lovely products. Yes, all of these are elements of the Make Welcome story. As our story unfolds, growth seems to be the plot line of the latest chapter, both organizationally and in impact...and we need help!

 

We’ve got openings for volunteers in several key position. Might you be a part of Make Welcome’s story? Here’s what we’re looking for in a volunteer:

 

  • Someone who loves Jesus and wants to invest in the lives of refugee women & children.

  • Someone who is flexible - almost every class time involves a change of plans, so volunteers need to be able to adapt with grace!

  • Someone who puts service above personal comfort - sometimes the classroom is really hot. Sometimes there are language barriers that are hard to get past. Sometimes a screaming baby needs to held and comforted for long stretches. Whatever the case, service isn’t always easy, so we need volunteers who will embrace that.

  • Someone who wants to come alongside to both serve AND to learn - the women we work with are amazing. They’ve endured great hardships, and have as much (or more) to teach us as we have to give to them. Volunteers need to have an attitude of humility and see their work with Make Welcome as an opportunity for personal growth.

 

Does this list of qualities describe you? Then take a look at our current openings, fill out the volunteer application and/or send us an email. We’d love to talk to you about serving together!

#God at work

Written by Lisa Roszler, Make Welcome Sewing Instructor, Product Designer, Refugee Advocate, and Friend!

I was unprepared, basket of peppers and zinnias in hand, yard-sale pots and pans in the back of the car. I was unprepared when she opened the door, ninety pounds of worn woman with black eyes deep in malnourished sockets. Black eyes that lit up and shone bright with delighted surprise at the simple gift in my hands. This was my first welcome, my first fresh-from-the-camps encounter, my first standing-so-close to the edge that I could almost see what her eyes had seen. I was unprepared. I may never find my breath.

September 9, 2012

I saw her again yesterday, walking in the parking lot of the apartments many refugees call home. I did not recognize her at first, long black hair shining down her back, cheerful blue skirt billowing in the breeze. Our eyes met. She smiled and waved furiously, recognizing the car that brought the basket. Her eyes, her wave, her posture: all revealed the beauty that hope brings, the health that nourishment brings. #Godatwork

March 29, 2015

A delectable aroma escaped the opened door. I hurried to leave my shoes on the step alongside dozens of other pairs as she took both my hands, ushering me into the crowded front room, into a birthday party unlike any I have ever attended. A pastor stood by the window, crepe paper flowers alongside his worn bible, speaking in one of the languages of Burma. I was quickly guided between rows of young children (sitting quietly! listening!) to a seat on the couch. My sister-in-Christ, Julia, friend of the family, partner in mission, sat on the floor next to me.

We listened. Our ears did not understand but our spirits were in agreement. We sang the songs with them, two languages at once to one tune. I wondered if this was how God hears all of us at the same time, hearts attuned even if the words are different.

We prayed, ending with the familiar “Amen”, this language of Hebrew knitting us. In harmony, in one language, we sang Happy Birthday, with an added verse: “May God bless you always.” The food—fried chicken, noodles, shredded vegetables, soup, agar, watermelon, pineapple cake with strawberries—poured out from the tiny kitchen in a steady stream, served by children, loaded onto 6’ round tables with 8” legs. Knee to knee on the floor, conversations and laughter flowed.

And what of the woman? She beamed. She glowed resplendent in lavender, in a handmade, wrapped-and-tucked skirt and side-buttoned blouse sent in love from another woman half a world away, where her two eldest children had remained behind. Today she was celebrating birth and life. Today, she welcomed friends and church.  Today, God was evident. #Godatwork

Today, she wrapped her arms around me.

Ready to Help Us Play?!

The Make Welcome nursery and PreK class that we provide for our students' children is one happening place. Stickers flying, crayons coloring, rockets zooming and ribbons twirling...there's never a dull moment and rarely a quiet one!

Our goal for the childcare at Make Welcome is to provide a safe, educational environment. To that end, we plan activities and use toys that emphasize sensory development, motor skills, and creativity. And that's where we need your help! We'd like to increase our toy cache so that we can rotate out different activities. But our budget is limited so we need some toy donations. Here's what's on our wish list:

  • Kinetic Sand (or one of its knock-offs) - we need two to three sets

  • Duplo Legos - of any style or set size!

  • Melissa & Doug Chunky Puzzles - any type

  • Volunteers - can't  buy this one at Amazon, but we could definitely use people with a heart to show the love of Christ to little ones. Background check is required. For more information, head over to our Volunteer page.

If you're interested in investing in the childcare side of our ministry, then shoot me an email at julia(at) makewelcome (dot) org. We'll be very grateful!!

Note: We're not yet a 501(c)3, so donations are not tax deductible.