Last month, this WELCOME banner was given to Northminser. It was created with love and appreciation by some of our newest neighbors. The original designs were created on brown paper by children Choir Campers many years ago—but Northminster invited the women attending the weekly refugee English and Citizenship classes to try their hand at creating a new banner out of fabric. For the past many weeks, an artist worked alongside Sheryl Rajbhandari, leader of Heartfelt Tidbits, to teach the women sewing techniques and design skills. Heartfelt Tidbits is a 100% volunteer-based organization that provides support and services that refugees need during and beyond the initial days of resettlement, in order to become truly settled in our city.
Krishna arrived in the US 8 years ago with her 2 sons, from Bhutan, via Nepal. She attends the ESL class on Friday and has participated in events at Northminster. In Nepal she was a weaver. Sewing and handiwork is her passion. She’s responsible for “W”.
The first “E” had everyone’s hands touching it. Volunteers would cut or iron a shape and then students who only could come to class a few times would add a stitch or two, collectively working to complete the letter. Three of us hand stitched on it at the same time.
Nar Maya and her family arrived in the US via Washington, DC almost 4 years ago. Two days after arriving they were put to work in a large factory. Last summer her family decided to move to Cincinnati so they could pursue their dream of owning a home. She had never used a sewing machine or hand sewed prior to this project. She earned a sewing machine for her volunteer efforts. She attends many of the programs at Northminster and her children participate in JAM Club. In addition, her husband Dhan and his five brothers are always the first volunteers to sign up for work at Northminster. They always say they feel the love in the church and her son is crazy about Mary Hensey, Director of Children & Family Ministry here at NmPC. She did the letter “L”.
Meena from Bhutan, arrived from Nepal in September 2016, with her husband and 2 year old daughter. She created the letter “C”. Meena had never seen thread and needles until she attended the sewing class. When she saw the waves on the pattern, she was so confused about how that was going to be created so the artist, Denise Burge, did a group lesson on blanket and chain stitching. Each wave was stitched by hand.
Fabiola, her husband and 3 children came here from Mexico. She and her husband’s entire family came together. Prior to this project Fabiola had never sewn before by a machine or hand. She earned a sewing machine for her effort. She did the letter “O”.
Kalpana, her husband and son arrived in the US from Nepal, last August. Her English may be limited but her desire to learn isn’t. She attended sewing class and worked on this project despite not knowing how to sew or speak English and after working the night shift at a cleaning company. Throughout the project she often felt she couldn’t do it but pushed on with laughter. She had the letter “M”.
Yeva—Eva, her husband and two sons came to the USA via a Green Card Lottery from Moscow. They left Russia because they are Muslims and felt neither safe, nor welcomed. Yeva loves to sew and express herself creativity through her work. She is responsible for the final “E” in Welcome.
Sheryl writes that this project really illustrates the word WELCOME. The students always feel welcomed here and were proud to be part of a piece of art that will be displayed here for all to see. And we feel blessed to have them here among us.
As a part of this year’s CONNECT work day, among all the great projects done, was a unique one for us this year. Springfield Township applied for and received a grant to build a playground at the site of a previous elementary school in a rough neighborhood in College Hill. Springfield township officials scheduled the build day for August 8th – CONNECT day so we could work on this project. Starting with a cleared site, we were able to assemble, anchor with poured concrete, and landscape a large playground. We worked with others from the township and people from this neighborhood to do this in a day. 6-8 neighborhood children showed up and pitched in and worked hard with us. They saw our CONNECT T-shirts and asked if they could have one. We were able to go back to Northminster and get enough CONNECT T-shirts to give each child one. They loved the T-shirts! Recall the T-shirts say “CONNECT – Building Relationships”.
The playground was dedicated 10 days later on August 18th.