It wasn’t that long ago that women in UGM’s Repair to Wear program learned and socialized in close quarters. “Our spaces were so packed, we all felt like sardines,” says Doris, Repair to Wear’s Sewing Coordinator. But all that has changed thanks to a new location beside UGM on East Hastings.
The new Repair to Wear space is bright, large, and equipped with a washer and dryer, solving a lot of the small challenges the program faced. Here, women in recovery can continue to learn sewing skills, while donated name-brand items are repaired and then sold through UGM’s Thrift Store. The women are paid for their time and the remaining proceeds are funnelled back into UGM’s programming, making Repair to Wear a full-circle initiative.
But more than sewing skills, women who attend Repair to Wear workshops are rebuilding their sense of self after hard years. “I estimate 30% of the ladies that come have some sewing skills, while the rest are not familiar with sewing,” says Doris. “They are hesitant, believing their repair work might not be good enough. We encourage them to just try: we’re not looking for perfection!”
The result is wearable clothing and restored lives. “I love seeing the transformation the women go through,” Doris says. “When they first come in they are often timid, not having self-confidence, maybe not having respect for themselves. Seeing how they're treated here, they can gain that confidence. They learn to say ‘I can do this. I'm worthy.’”
“I had skills, I had value, but I forgot. Doris and Repair to Wear reminded me.” — Janice, Repair to Wear Participant and Part-Time Staff
Many of the program’s participants have gone on to pursue further education and internships, bolstered by a renewed belief in their capabilities and strengths. “Since I started, I've picked up more than I thought possible, things I wouldn't even think to ask about sewing,” says program participant Katrina. “I get to come once a week, and I'm going to school right now. So it's perfect for me.”
It’s the community built during workshops that Doris sees as being key to participants’ success. “UGM is all about building trusting relationships, and Repair to Wear is all relational,” she says. “Here, you can just be who you are.”
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