2 min read

Sewing the Fabric of Calgary’s Somali Community

Imagine arriving in a foreign country, the country that’s about to become your new home. Everything is new, and you’ve left friends, family and the familiar comforts of home behind. You barely speak the language, making the most basic tasks like grocery shopping or going to the doctor seem monumental. How would you establish yourself, create a community and provide for your family?

Those are the types of questions that face our Somali community here in Calgary. There are about 5000 Somalis living in our city, and Carya’s Somali Community Development team helps them access basic services, create healthy outlets for their youth, make connections and establish a sustainable life for themselves and their families.

somali sewing machinesOne of the simplest ways to accomplish many of these things is through the humble sewing machine. While it may be an everyday item to many people, for Somali women in Calgary the sewing machine represents opportunity. Some may choose to use their sewing machine to start a small business repairing friends’ and neighbours’ clothing. Traditional Somali garments are often intricate and can be expensive to tailor. A Somali-run tailoring business keeps precious clothing in the hands of the experts and keeps money in the largely low income Somali community.

Owning a sewing machine also empowers Somali women to build skills and connect with their neighbours. We all know the rewarding feeling of mastering something new. Sewing classes give Somali women the opportunity to do just that, while connecting with members of their community at the same time. When money is tight, and going out for dinner or to a movie just isn’t an option, a sewing class can be an important social event that creates lasting bonds between these women.