Do you have a sewing machine hanging around unused at your house? Perhaps you know an elderly relative or friend who is no longer sewing and would like to see their beloved machine put to good use?
Give an underused sewing machine a new life!
In 2019, just with the power of the internet and kind readers like you, my lovely mother and I passed on 103 sewing machines and 11 overlockers, along with starter packs of donated fabric and other sewing necessities.
Check out this video of Shenenas, the woman who sparked the movement:
My mum and I are coordinating with New Zealand Red Cross (who handle refugee resettlement for the government) to match up machines with former refugees who would love the chance to sew at home.
We’d also appreciate donations of fabric, thread, notions and so on, if you happen to have a stash going spare. Obviously most people will want to choose their own things eventually, but having some material immediately will make it easier for new owners to get started straight away.
And if you’re a handy person who can service a machine and make sure it’s in good condition, ready for its new home, your skills would be super useful!
If you can help with any of these things, please contact my mum and I at sewingmachinedonations [at] gmail [dot] com:
- a sewing machine, preferably in good working order (but in some centres we have volunteers able to service them)
- fabric and/or other sewing essentials like thread, scissors, pins, buttons and so on
- checking or servicing donated machines
- picking up donations, especially transporting from the regions to the main centres
If you can help with any of this, please contact me at sewingmachinedonations [at] gmail [dot] com. Please don’t contact your local Red Cross directly – we’re trying to save them some work by coordinating. Thank you!
Um, why sewing machines?
I sewed my toddler son one pair of trousers five years ago, using my Mum’s machine. That’s the last time I sewed, which is to say: this isn’t a personal passion or anything. It’s just a need we stumbled on.
My parents are regular volunteers with the Manawatū Red Cross refugee resettlement team. In 2018 they helped three families put down roots in Palmerston North, being alongside them as they negotiate banks, buses, grocery-shopping and healthcare. After the initial flurry of setting up the household and enrolling in schools, GPs and so on, for each of these families, and no doubt more in 2019, my folks are now always at the other end of the phone when they have questions or get stuck.
Last month one of their former refugee friends said she’d love a sewing machine. Mum asked if I knew anyone with one to donate. I told Mum I’d ask on Twitter, and within minutes we had sourced a machine for this first person. More offers came in, so I checked with Red Cross and found that all the centres they could reach (in the last week before Christmas!) knew of former refugees who would appreciate one.
I won’t tell the stories of those families for them, but you can hear from people in the same position on the excellent Red Cross website.
Every year a few hundred new New Zealanders arrive here after years of anxious displacement. After a few weeks of orientation in Māngere, they move to rented houses in one of eight centres: Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin, and Invercargill.
And of course they need more than sewing machines.
How else can you help?
If you don’t have an unused sewing machine lying around, there are plenty of other ways you could help a former refugee household thrive in their new surroundings.
If you’re in one of those eight resettlement centres, start by checking out the Red Cross website.
If you’re in another part of the world, search online for ‘refugee volunteer’ + your location and you’ll find ways to be useful.
Some of the things you could do in New Zealand include:
- mentoring a former refugee as they learn to drive
- helping a former refugee household to set up their new home and get to know their new city
- employing or training a former refugee through the Red Cross Pathways to Employment programme
- donating specific items that are needed in your region, or anything to any Red Cross shop to raise funds
- becoming a customer of a former refugee’s business. There are some examples of businesses that might be near you here and here
- making friends with a former refugee.
I have lots more ideas for you in this article, so I reckon there’s something for just about everyone, wherever you live. Let me know how it goes!
A reminder: If you have a sewing machine to donate, please contact me at sewingmachinedonations [at] gmail [dot] com. Please don’t contact your local Red Cross directly – we’re trying to save them some work by coordinating. Thank you!