Image from the Second Stitch project organised by African Community Heritage Hub Ltd

Having good working conditions, fair contractual conditions, and stable employment that pays at least the real Living Wage all have a big impact on our health, and refugees and migrants face additional barriers to good health. Being out of work or being in low-paid employment has a significant and long-term negative impact on your health and your wellbeing.

Second Stitch is an 18-month project run by the African Community Heritage Hub Ltd which provides dressmaking and sewing classes using recycled materials to African women aged 50+ who are refugees, originally from the East of Congo, Eritrea, Somalia and Syria and now living in the Balsall Heath area of Birmingham.

The project supports members with basic sewing skills who are wishing to go into the garment business or clothing sewing machinist career by providing them with advanced techniques using a range of different teaching methods. The project also encourages members to be actively involved and to undertake additional work in their own time, helping them develop a wide variety of sewing skills and techniques to make a range of different items.

This extra support helps them to improve their employment prospects with emphasis on the sewing skills including discussions on sewing as a viable employment option, such as a Clothing Sewing Machinist as well as supporting those who are thinking of becoming self-employed.

One of the project’s members is MM, a 52-year-old woman, who lives in Balsall Heath with her husband and three daughters. Their family income is low and MM doesn’t currently earn an income.

MM is taking part in the “Second Stitch” project to gain basic sewing knowledge and skills, and wants to have a career in sewing as a Clothing Machinist in order to support her husband by bringing in additional income for the household.

Since the end of March when COVID-19 affected the projects face-to-face workshops, the project provided MM with a sewing machine, iron, scissors, and other necessary materials so that she could continue her sewing skills training at home during the pandemic.

Now, she is using the basic skills she has gained from the project to stitch simple blouses and dresses, and during the pandemic, she started making face masks to help people in her community who cannot afford to buy a mask.

Her husband and family are happy for her as she has got a passion that is making her incredibly happy. She said: “I am happy with the training of the project and I want to thank the African Community Heritage Hub Ltd” for initiating the project and the Peoples’ Health Trust for providing financial support”.

African Community Heritage Hub Ltd is funded through the Trust’s Active Communities programme with money raised by Health Lottery West Midlands.

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