About 8 months ago I read about Bhutanese families relocating to the Madison area. These are people who have endured so much, have been uprooted from their homes and have been on the move for years now. After spending time in refugee camps they have found their way to the United States with the help of organizations like Lutheran Social Services. There are pockets of Bhutanese in several areas of the US. When I became aware of their presence in the Madison area I couldn’t help wondering if The Sewing Machine Project could help in some way.
Imagine, living in a rural farming, subtropical culture…being forced out and fleeing to neighboring Nepal and not really having a home and then, finally, arriving in Madison, Wisconsin, only to encounter a whole new set of challenges. Imagine navigating the bus system, enrolling your child in school, going to Woodmans??!
To my mind, offering the tools and the ability to sew seemed like a peaceful way to help make a corner of their transition a little sweeter. So we began. We’ve been talking about this for months but finally, just this week, it came to fruition. The members of the community (about 130 so far) were excited about the idea of learning to sew.
We’ve begun with a group of 10 people and they are learning to use the sewing machines and after completing the little series of classes, will take their machine home. Men and women alike, some hope to sew for their families while others hope to maybe earn an income through sewing. Their enthusiasm is contagious.
I asked Steffani Lincecum, a board member, to head up this initiative and she grabbed the opportunity. Steff’s combination of sensitivity, creativity, organization and gentleness was perfect for the task. On Wednesday Steff and I, along with Lois, Trish, and Bird (also on the board) met with our first group. We weren’t sure if anyone had used a machine or if we’d be able to communicate, given the language barrier (people from this area of Bhutan speak Nepali). Chaotic? yes! Busy? yes! Beautiful? most definitely! Everyone’s off to a good start, all at different level. Communication is tricky but the language of friendship and kindness is present and we’re all doing our best.
We’ll keep you posted..
What a gentle way to ease the integration these people into a foreign country! You’re doing a wonderful job – congratulations!
P.S. I like your expression “the language of friendship”. Yes it works!
I commend this idea of teaching and engaging the Bhutanese in Madison in creative tasks, and forming a bond of friendship along the way. I am very eager to volunteer in this act but I am not sure whom to contact. I have been trying for sometime to get in touch with someone who can connect me to volunteering opportunities in Bhutanese community here in Madison, but haven’t been successful so far. I would appreciate if someone could provide me useful information on this. If it helps, Nepali is my native language.