Yubelly Perez, MRC Board Member
I remember when I was a child one of my aunts used to crochet all the time. She was a housewife and was looking forward to learning something new and possibly in the future have an income for herself. My aunt in a short time learned how to make scarves, dresses and other crafts. Every time that I was at her house I was looking at her and how she was handling the wool and the hook; and not like other children that are afraid to go to the doctor and see a needle, my biggest fear was my aunt’s crochet “needle”, for me it was a little monster that I could not manage, I tried several times to start a project and by the end of the day I was frustrated until one day I gave up.
One Thursday night while I was at MRC, Meg told me that one of the Iraqi refugees has offered to teach crochet to our participants. Suddenly all my childhood crochet memories came back and I told her I could never learn how to crochet, but at the same time I was telling myself maybe this was a second chance life was giving me to see that I could do it. That same day Meg went with Raheeq to purchase wool and other crochet materials, they came back with a bag full of beautiful colors and those “monster needles”.
The next Thursday Raheeq was teaching one of the participants from Congo how to crochet, I went downstairs and I saw how both of them were using the “crochet language”, Christine only speaks Swahili and French, Raheeq Arabic and English, but both of them were communicating in a way you will only understand when you sit with them and watch how Christine was crocheting and learning the basic crochet stitches. Christine was with her 5 children and one of her daughters was hypnotized looking how her mother was using the hook to make crochet chains. Encouraged by seeing them I sat next to Raheeq and I told her about my experience and like all mothers and aunts she said to me “Do not give up and watch and learn”. Patiently she taught me how to hook the wool and make chains, my challenge: to craft a 10 stitch chain. While I was attempting create the chain, I looked at Christina’s daughter and she was also trying to make her first chains, we practiced until our chain stitches were smooth and even.
I went home and I was feeling different, I was thinking about this new experience at MRC and how Christine was excited about the crochet program. The follow Thursday I saw how she was already attempting making a dishcloth and learning new stitches. Week by week more women were attending the class and other children were looking how their mothers were sitting next to each other speaking the crochet language.
At MRC we are always looking for new opportunities for our participants, and thanks to Raheeq we have a program where refugee women can learn a new skill. Women and girls represent on average 49% of persons of concern to UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and at MRC we recognize the necessity of have a place where they can feel safe and empowered. Christine is making crochet crafts to decorate her house, her daughter is already following small patterns and I am still attempting my third set of chains. Like Thomas Alva Edison said “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward”.
*If you want to know more about our crochet program and how to support Multicultural Refugee Coalition, please visit our website http://www.mrcaustin.org/donate.html. MRC is also participating in Macy’s Shop for a Cause on October 16, please consider buying a $5 coupon to support us.