“Teresa called me and asked, ‘What’s on top?,’ says Jacqs Wilton, manager, English Language Partners Porirua. “I said ‘masks,’ so she put $1,500 into our bank account.”
Teresa Moore is CEO of United Way NZ, a charity that distributes donations. United Way’s donation snowballed into a successful project with multiple benefits for English Language Partners’ learners and the wider community.
Jacqs used the donation to purchase fabric to make masks, and learners at the centre’s ‘Mums and Tots’ class cut out the masks ready for sewing.
The centre then put out a call for learners with sewing skills, offering a koha for each mask. 200 were completed, allowing English Language Partners to gift two masks to each learner who needed them.
ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum then held a workshop at English Language Partners, with the centre’s mask-sewers, Amina Gharib, Boshra Najem, Hajar Dandesh and Giang Sung, teaching people to make masks.
“This donation has been a win-win in multiple ways,” says Jacqs. “Rather than buying masks, we worked with learners to make them.
“By using the language for sewing and measuring fabric, learners developed linguistic and numerical skills. Our mask sewers gained teaching skills, sewers were acknowledged for their work, and the collaboration with ChangeMakers has been great too.”
Jacqs says the project, chronicled through the centre’s Facebook page, caught the attention of the wider community.
“People say they love what we’re doing.”
“The people we work with are so kind, they appreciate what we do, and have shown how they really care for their new community. Giang gifted masks to our team, made using her own fabric with a kiwi print. I was quite teary-eyed!”
“Families have helped out too. Amina Gharib’s husband Abdullah sent a photo of him preparing dinner while she sewed 40 masks!”
Amina says she also made masks for her children and their friends.
With the coronavirus it’s very good to have masks, especially children going to school.
– Amina Gharib, learner, Porirua
“Crikey, you’re doing well – 40 masks!” said Porirua City Mayor Anita Baker when she saw the masks made by Amina Gharib.
Mayor Baker learned to make masks at the workshop, which saw an English Language Partners’ classroom transformed into a hive of activity, around multiple sewing machines.
The event was organised by ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum, a grassroots non-governmental organisation representing over 17 refugee-background communities in the Wellington region.
“We’re involved in a number of communities in Porirua,” says ChangeMakers’ community development worker Tracey Read.
“People were already sewing masks for learners and volunteers on our driving licence programme. We thought it would be great to do something for the public, with sewers sharing their skills.
“Sewing machines were donated through the Red Cross ‘Pathways to Employment’ programme and are available for the community to use.”
Mayor Baker, who confessed her sewing machine skills were generally limited to “Repairs and taking up hems”, was an enthusiastic learner, with Amina guiding her through cutting, tucking and sewing a mask.
“It was very impressive,” said Mayor Baker. “Amina is a very good teacher.”
Our Porirua centre’s Mums and Tots’ class ensures mothers with pre-schoolers are not isolated at home. They meet other mums, learn English and get out into the community to learn about opportunities for them and their children.