Neighborhood Opportunity Network

Supporting one another in a time of crisis

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Each one teach one

Posted by sebastianbrown on February 22, 2011


Emilia, far left, advises Alicia on sewing in a straight line as others cheer her on

After their wonderful informational/planning meeting the previous Thursday evening, the eight women interested in forming their own mutual support and skill exchange circle met for their first official session last Wednesday morning. With the help of Lanita and Frankie who had participated in the Thursday meeting, we had two sewing machines on hand as well as circle-member and trained tailor Edelsa prepared to lead an intro workshop to machine sewing.

Unfortunately, just a half hour before the session was to begin, Edelsa called from the hospital where she was waiting for her sick daughter to be seen by a doctor. The workshop leader wasn’t going to be able to make the very first session! What were we to do?

The answer soon became clear when the eight ladies showed up and jumped into action upon hearing the news about Edelsa. They encouraged Emilia, who had mentioned Thursday night that she had learned how to sew from her mom as a young girl in El Salvador, to start tinkering with the machines–that Lanita and Frankie admitted had been collecting dust on their shelves for several years–to get the machines set up and ready to be used.

With the machines ready to go, the women convened in a circle to participate in a 5 minute relaxation and mind clearing exercise led by Network Guide Nathalie. Then, the women heard from the core planning committee about their understanding of the group’s purpose, goals and ground agreements. With the group calmed and grounded, Victoria led the group in a practice mutual support session in which Emilia–who had barely muttered a word Thursday evening–revealed her devastating story of having been seriously injured in a recent car crash that has left her without work and her family struggling to pay rent. Victoria immediately directed her to Community Connector Yemny at the TESS Center–who had met Emilia at the Thursday night gathering–who they were able to call and make an emergency appointment with just two hours later!

Emiey showing off her first masterpiece. I think she called it "the walking man"...or woman for that matter!

With an hour left, the   women hopped on to the  two machines and, with Emilia’s graceful guidance, began practicing sewing in straight lines. While some of the women own machines but have never known where to begin with using them, others have never touched a machine in their life despite always having an interest in learning.

And so, within just two and a half hours–they couldn’t get enough of the guided practice!–these women managed to connect a member to an emergency service, learn basic sewing skills, agree to guidelines for a four week pilot program of member-led sewing workshops and tap into the hidden talents of one another! What else can we ask for?

Tomorrow morning we’ll continue with the first of four sessions led by Edelsa!

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