Interfaith Health Services, through Latinas in Action, launched a hands-on micro-business and sewing program. It is rare that a project of this nature succeeds from the beginning, and we believe our demonstrated ability to listen to participants highlights the trust we have built up in the community over the years. Our track record demonstrates commitment to the community at large and to forging new and innovative partnerships while serving a record number of families each month.
Our micro-business initiative started with the initial donation of twelve high-end wedding dresses from a Vice-President at Wells Fargo Bank who contacted us FIA seeking a way to distribute the dresses in the community. Our participants worked together to re-bead and sell the dresses to women in the South Omaha and surrounding areas seeking affordable wedding dresses.
One of our FIA participants, Ramona, offered to teach sewing classes to participants and women in the community interested in learning more about machine sewing, craft design and small business structuring. Many of our FIA participants have a knowledge of hand sewing but have never had the opportunity to sew using machines. Classes began with nine students signed up and attending, along with their children. Within a week, that number doubled with over a dozen women attending (word of mouth spread and participants brought friends). There is a great deal of excitement as the women learn more about sewing and business plans. Our waiting list for future classes is full, as well. Several business leaders in the community will be speaking with future classes about their own perspectives on business.
Ramona is a highly skilled instructor and she shared with that she studied sewing in high school and that in the decades since then, she has developed her natural gift for creating dresses and clothing. Ramona opened her own business in South Omaha making formal dresses for quinceaneras and is well-respected throughout the community. Her skills are evident in her teaching and class preparations. She is professional, patient and able to demonstrate correct sewing methods to each student at some point during each two hour classes each semester. Her hands-on approach makes the subject matter easier to digest and “easier to learn“, according to participants.
It has been inspiring to see women in the community so enthused about joining together and learning together. One participant, Martha, invited us to her house, to get to know her and her family a bit more and talk with her about the class. Martha has a dream of owning her own business some day. She shared that she is enjoying learning and being with other women. She is also grateful that children’s activities are provided on site so that her son can attend classes with her.
Some of the women involved in FIA’s micro-business program are survivors of domestic violence. Classes provide a way for women to support one another, as well as continue their own journey toward self-sufficiency. Domestic violence advocates have conducted several site visits to classes and recommend the classes in the community.
This latest program is helping participants learn more while provide concrete ideas regarding small business start-up and providing the tools for economic growth. At FIA, we rely on the support and hard work of so many collaborators, funders and participants. Without your support, our work would not be possible.
Virginia McGill y Gema Castillo Wolde