Young people in Paisley are Sewing2gether for Ukraine.

Gathered happily around sewing machines amidst an avalanche of cushion stuffing, young people at Mossvale Primary School in Paisley are coming together to show support for Ukraine and their new Ukrainian classmates.

In fun-filled weekly workshops run by Gabi at Sewing2gether, who also co-runs community group Sewing2gether All Nations, Primary 7 pupils are taught how to sew. The kids are split into 5 groups over 5 weeks, and then on the 6th week, Ukrainian parents and carers come in to learn sewing skills from the group.

It’s all thanks to headteacher Jane Houston, who was keen to provide an activity within the school to welcome their new Ukrainian families. Teachers at the school tell us how popular the workshops are, with all the kids wanting to get involved. And it’s clear why. Everyone in the group is having a great time.

This week, the group is making cooking bags to send to Ukraine. This involves removing the insides from pillows and cushions and stuffing it into upcycled duvets which will be sewn up into cooking bags.

What’s a cooking bag, and why might somebody need one?

Cooking bags for Ukraine.

In Ukraine, people are living with limited gas and electricity. The cooking bags act as a slow-cooker. People can part-cook their meals when they have power, and then keep their food hot when the power cuts out.

This is all the more poignant as among the group are kids who have fled Ukraine recently. The family are now living in a nearby hotel. Their mum is here too, and they’re teaching her how to use the machines.

The idea for the cooking bags came from Sally Pritchard and Fiona McGovern at The Castlemilk Pantry, who Gabi runs another sewing group with – Sew Fabulous.

Sew Fabulous and Mossvale Primary’s efforts will soon be joined by Highpark Primary in Glasgow. And of course, Sewing2gether All Nations are getting involved too.

Another attendee is a woman from Ukraine who had a long career in textiles and, until fleeing Ukraine, sewed wedding dresses. She has been volunteering with Sewing2gether since arriving in Scotland four months ago. She is also currently living in a nearby hotel and is hoping to find work.

One of the kids, from Paisley, tells us that she got a Ukrainian phrase book for Christmas, and has been learning phrases to help her connect with her new classmates. In just a month, she’s picked up not only basic phrases, but a good accent too. She chats away with another girl from Ukraine who only joined the school one week before.

At the end of the workshop, the group shares any new Ukrainian phrases they learned that day.

The headteacher tells us that there were other Ukrainian families here, who have recently been resettled to another area and school, but that they would always be welcome back to join in on these workshops and other community events.

This cultural, intergenerational exchange is important. As Gabi says,

“Kids are more comfortable just trying new languages and chatting away. And for adults, in my experience running these workshops anyway, they might feel more comfortable trying out new phrases in this setting.”

Sewing2gether for integration and community

The school is home to children from many backgrounds and nationalities. The team here works hard to create opportunities for their young people to connect and integrate. And what better way than a couple of hours of learning new, practical, lifelong skills, while doing something to help others?

Our Regional Integration Coordinator, Dumie (pictured above sewing a pencil case), speaks to the class, telling them that he also arrived in Scotland as a refugee. He explains how, even if someone arriving as a refugee moves somewhere else quickly, they’ll always remember the first people who helped them out.

The bell rings, and the kids run out to the playground. They’ve learned some new words, they’ve had different conversations and met new people, they’ve created something with their own hands which will make someone’s life even a little bit better, and they’ve had fun while doing so. And it’s something they’ll remember for a long time.

All in a day’s work for Sewing2gether. Gabi knows that in these troubled times, there’s nothing like making something to help you (and others too) feel more at home.

Chris Afuakwah
Author: Chris Afuakwah