PTBOCanada Featured Post: Syrian Women In Peterborough Say Thank You With Hand-Sewn Canadian Flags

In the Sunflower Room at the New Canadians Centre, six women are busy sewing Canadian flags.

Members of a pilot project, The Newcomer Women’s Sewing Collective is a first for the city of Peterborough. Still in its infancy, the program helps newcomer women join together to learn new skills, develop and enhance language while at the same time sharing and honing their talents to create products suitable for a start-up social enterprise. The first 8-week project at the New Canadians Centre (NCC) Peterborough involves six newcomer women from Syria.

“For newcomer women, this is more than just a working environment," says Yvonne Lai, Director, Community Development (interim) at New Canadians Centre. "It is a safe space where they can connect with each other, form friendships and share details about their daily challenges as they build a new life in Peterborough.”

Grateful for the support and friendship extended to them since fleeing their war torn country of Syria, the women of the collective are sewing Canadian flags as a way of saying thank you. “One of the women in the collective, Emine, whispered to me she wanted to make a Canadian flag,” says Reem Ali, Community Development Worker at the New Canadians Centre. “The next thing I knew, she had sewn one and was sharing it with the rest of the group. It was very heartwarming to see this.”

In addition to sewing Canadian flags, the collective are busy producing decorative coffee sleeves, potholders adorned with the maple leaf and more for the upcoming Gilmour Street Garage Sale, which takes place May 27th.

“A member of our community, Patricia Quinn, has kindly offered the Newcomer Women’s Sewing Collective a table at the annual neighbourhood sale,” says Lai. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the women of the group to engage with our community while earning some income for the work they’ve produced. We’re very grateful they’ve been given this chance considering we are only a few weeks into the project.”

Many of the outreach programs designed to support integration into a welcoming community delivered by the New Canadians Centre are not government funded. Programs like the Newcomer Women’s Sewing Collective, Mother Goose and the Women’s Group rely on the generosity of donor support.

By making a monthly donation of $5, $10, $15, $25, you can help newcomers like the women of the sewing collective have access to programs designed to develop and enhance language skills, build self-esteem and become independent—every month, all year long. Please sign up to become a monthly donor today. Help #bringpeopletogether: Go here for more info.


Celebrating the New Canadian Centre’s commitment to strengthening community and developing a sense of belonging for all newcomers for 38 years, local artist and letterpress printer Jeff Macklin of Jackson Creek Press has created a signature "Bring People Together" T-shirt that will also be available for sale on May 27th at the Gilmour Street Garage Sale.

“We share a land, a country and a community,” says Macklin. “The design brings together a host of various, eclectic woodtype letterforms into a fun, cohesive logo which portrays our various backgrounds and the traits which make us different, but really are just the same. When we come together, we are stronger.”

Commemorating Canada’s 150th, the shirts are available for sale at various locations—including the upcoming Gilmour Street Garage Sale—leading up to and on Canada Day, in a range of sizes for just $10.

“The letterforms and words to create this design were captured from authentic wood type in my antique pressroom—arranged and printed from the block and digitized for production,” adds Macklin.

For more than 38 years, the New Canadians Centre has been leading the effort to make Peterborough a more welcoming and diverse community. Since November 2015, they have welcomed close to 300 newcomers from Syria to our community.

Watch this great video on the Newcomer Sewing project below...

For more information on New Canadians Centre, click here.

—Guest post by NCC's Carol Lawless

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