Holding a squirming toddler, I peek into a room filled with activity. Four women are busy threading sewing machines, lining up fabric and stitching headbands. The little boy in my arms spots his mother ironing some flowered fabric and strains towards her. I let him down and he runs to her side. She pauses what she’s doing, speaks a few Burmese words to him and he smiles. I can’t help but smile too.
This small room that I’m peeking into contains the beginnings of our refugee arts cooperative, Make Welcome. Several times a month, women from various ethnicities, as well as American volunteers gather together to learn sewing techniques, create products and share life.
Some of the women bring their children to classes. Volunteers (including me), play with the little ones. We’re teaching simple preschool lessons, reading books and learning some new vocabulary ourselves as we try to communicate in Burmese.
Our group is definitely small. But, at the risk of being a bit cliché, I see the potential for big things. Opportunity to carry out our group’s goal of making refugee families feel welcome in their new home. Opportunity for friendships that enrich both refugees and volunteers. Opportunities for the women to find new income sources as they grow in skills. Opportunities to expand our group so that more can attend. And most of all, opportunity for the love of Christ to be shown in the context of cross cultural community.
If you’re interested in volunteering, sponsoring a sewing machine for a refugee women, or just finding out more about us, drop us a line. And stay tuned! We’re just getting started.