A Dream of Cinderella’s Dress

Monday, June 10th, 2013

An Asylum Seeker is learning sewing

Being involved in an association fighting for democracy, resisting or protesting against discrimination is dangerous in some countries. For those involved the threat of possible detention, torture or even death is real. Fleeing the country is for some the only option to ensure safety. Most of the asylum seekers currently living in Cisarua, Bogor, have after sometimes years of waiting, at last gained the status of a ‘refugee’ from the UNHCR. During these waiting times asylum seekers hold on to opportunities for activities and their dreams of a better future.

I want to be a designer. I will make my own clothes” says Ibsituu, an asylum seeker staying at Cipayung, Cisarua. Since April, Ibsituu has enthusiastically taken part in the sewing class facilitated by JRS Bogor and the FMM (Fransiscan Missionaries of Mary) Sisters Community.  He is happy with this sewing class that he joined as the first of all his friends. “She is the quickest in learning how to sew and stitch”, says Ibu Ani, teaching sewing to asylum seekers.

The atmosphere of the Sewing Class became warmer after the asylum seekers got to know each other and started communicating more openly with each other. Apparently, it’s not only the asylum seekers who are enthusiastic about the classes, trainers and teachers too seem to never grow tired in teaching the asylum seekers different ways of sewing. Sometimes everyone gets so enthusiastic that even the lunch gets postponed as one is are too busy to learn and practice.

The conversations during the sewing lesson are friendly and cheerful. Language barriers and cultural differences are overcome and making space for enjoying the company of new friends and discovering new ways of communicating.

“Now I know the Ethiopian words for ‘waist, arm and shoulder”, says Ibu Ani. “It is very difficult to explain a thing without knowing someone’s language.  I just ask the words and write them down in my book so I can remember these particular words,” adds Ibu Ani smiling. Ibu Ani has been particularly impressed with one of the asylum seekers, Gudetu, and her progress using the sewing machine. “First she found it hard to synchronize her legs and hands when operating the sewing machine. But se has been relentless in trying and trying until she mastered it,” says Ibu Ani, laughing.

Seven of the asylum seekers JRS is currently supporting meet each other every Tuesday and Thursday in the sewing class. One of them is Reyhaneh an asylum seeker from Iran. She is just 18 years of age.  “I want to meet other people. I will get bored easily when I only stay at home. If I come here twice a week, I can meet new people and also can learn how to sew. I will make a long dress like ‘Cinderella’s’ dress” says Reyhaneh with a bright smile. To her, ‘overcoming boredom’ has become very important while awaiting the outcome of her asylum claim, which she submitted along with her sister and mother.

The sewing class is not solely a place to learn new skills but it is a chance to meet each other, become good friends in a safe and kind environment, sharing the experience of learning new skills together is empowering. Here one is free to laugh, celebrate ones’ own and others small successes and gain new inspiration for dreams. After times of loss and grief the feeling of being weak and vulnerable can be left behind and hope is nurtured for a life in dignity and creativity. ***

Fransisca Asmiarsi

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