From the outside of a stalwart brick church in the north end of Brandon, Manitoba, you might not know it has a brightly-coloured basement that hums with activity.
Men and women, adults and children, hunch over sewing machines on long collapsible tables. They came to Manitoba as refugees from Eritrea, Somalia, and elsewhere. Over their shoulders peer the keen eyes of skilled Hutterite women, checking their work and giving them pointers on creating yoga bags and bread bags, aprons and baby hats.
This diverse group of folks makes up the Hand in Glove Community Co-op. The co-op gives newcomers a way to gain skills and income in their new prairie community. Through its social enterprise arm, called “Sew Happy”, they create products to sell at local businesses.
Members get half of the money from any products they sell – the other half goes towards materials. Each product has a label with information about its creator. This includes their name, where they’re from, and why they love being in Canada.