A social group in Wagga has become known for equipping newcomers to the community with lessons on sewing.
Phakamile ‘Phaka’ Ntombela has been attending the group for four weeks and said she loves the weekly gatherings.
“I enjoy everything,” she said.
“When I first came here I didn’t know a thing about the sewing and now I have learnt so much.
“Everyone here is super helpful and very supportive.”
Learning a skill and practising their English is a crucial element of the classes said Helen Brennan, one of the leaders at Common Threads.
“It’s a very good opportunity to talk with people and learn from their English,” she said.
“It’s a very positive experience and the refugees are very keen.”
One woman who recognised the value of Common Threads and was instrumental in getting it up and running was Hakimeh Rahim.
Ms Rahim is originally from Afghanistan and uses her English to help those in the classes who are struggling to understand.
Common Threads started in late 2017 when Wagga City Council allocated a grant to the Multicultural Council, who then partnered up with Wellways and STARTTS to get the group up and running.
The leaders who run the classes have a new lesson each week that allows the participants to learn skills including pin-cushioning to sewing a bag.
Tom Paton, the Multicultural Council’s community development officer said when the project initially started they had 40 participants, but now the council and the volunteers run more tailored classes.
“It’s a great way to reduce social isolation,” he said.
“They can come in and meet new people, practise their English in a social setting and it’s a great way to learn off each other.”
Some of the participants are also using the skills learned to look at business opportunities, with some women looking towards markets for selling their products.