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This International Women’s Day, A Sewing Machine Will Make a Difference

March 6, 2024 |  By Sue Morris

In 2019, Meseret Workelul purchased two sewing machines to start a sewing center in Ethiopia. The center was located in a small house where she hoped to have a total of 12 machines to be used to train women in sewing skills. Little did she know how that tiny seed of two machines would grow to become a dynamic sewing center impacting many in Ethiopia.

Sewing Machines’ Impact

In 2021, Meseret shared about the impact the sewing machines had on the ladies taking the training and the trainer herself. The ladies have prayer time to begin each day of training. They also hold a day of prayer and fasting each Wednesday at the center. Meseret wrote, “We are hearing more testimonies from the teachers and students how their spiritual life has been changed because of the fellowship.”
The sewing instructor had lost her son to a terrible accident. She struggled with loneliness and depression for two years. Being hired to work at the center changed her life. Meseret said, “This project gave her purpose in her life and restarted her relationship with God.” Meseret continued, “We are thankful for this project. This is not about how to learn how to sew. The reason behind all this is Jesus.”

The Sewing Center Grows

This is not the end of the story. While working with an organization that allowed the center to use a space rent-free, the center was able to purchase more machines. Later, the center separated from that organization and moved into a larger building. A friend of Meseret who heard about the sewing center went to Ethiopia. After observing the center’s impact using about 25 machines, she decided to donate 50 machines for the four-month training program that prepares women with the skills to start their own businesses or to sew for a company.

A Family Changed by a Sewing Machine

Here is one story of how the gift of a sewing machine and the four-month training changed the life of a woman named Almaz* and her family. Her church recommended Almaz to attend the sewing center training. Her family of five was in desperate need of income since her husband had been injured on the job. Two of his fingers were cut off, leaving him without work.
Almaz was very dedicated, coming in early to work on projects. As she continued the training, Almaz petitioned the government for a place to locate her sewing business after she graduated from the center. She persistently went from office to office and wrote a proposal about the business she wanted to start. Before she graduated, she announced that the government gave her a place to establish her trade. Meseret gave her a sewing machine to begin her business. She was also given a little money to buy a cutting table, scissors, and fabric. Almaz was excited to start the company as she loved sewing.
When Meseret visited Almaz, she was impressed with the work Almaz was doing. She was sewing clothes and had purchased a machine to do Ethiopian embroidery on the clothes. Her husband was able to help by cutting out the clothes, and Almaz would then sew. She was able to support her husband and three children with her business. Meseret exclaimed, “God used just this little resource to go far.”

You can donate a sewing machine and help a woman support her family.

Sewing Machines Help a Couple

The sewing center, located in northern Ethiopia, continues to help people learn new skills to better their lives. They have had three graduations in the last year, with 12, 21, and 50 people in the graduating classes. Now they have the capacity to take 100 students at a time.
Meseret told me about Sara* and Alazer*, a wife and husband who were helped by the sewing center. Alazer paid to receive sewing training at another location and purchased his own sewing machine. Sara came to the center for training, and the center helped her find work after graduation.
As Meseret listened to Sara talk about her job, Meseret was shocked to discover that Sara was only receiving $80 per month for her sewing job. Sara explained that her salary would double if she had her own sewing machine. Meseret inquired if Sara and Alazer were ready to open their own business. Sara said that they were not ready yet. She wanted to gain more experience, study the market, and save some money.
Meseret offered Sara her own machine with a condition. She asked Sara and Alazer to promise they would save the extra cash Sara earned by having her machine for opening their own business. They said they would save for a year. Right now, they have six months more before they open their business. This husband and wife went from having no marketable skills to soon opening their own sewing business.

The Need for Sewing Machines is Great

Meseret talked about the need for more machines. She said they only give some graduates a sewing machine because there are insufficient funds to purchase many machines. After the last 50 people graduated, the training center was able to help 26 women to find work. Instability caused by war in Ethiopia meant that some of those 26 were not able to keep their jobs. They were new hires, and when the businesses closed, they lost their jobs. There are more than 30 people on the list desiring a sewing machine. Some of them are sewing for $80 a month, which is not enough to pay rent. Receiving a sewing machine would mean having money to buy food and other essentials for their family.
Besides the center in northern Ethiopia, centers have been started in two other cities in Ethiopia. Meseret remarked that the ladies who had been trained used to be maids, day laborers, and laundresses, working for a small daily wage. Now, with training and a sewing machine, they can earn enough to not only survive but to thrive. They can support their families and their church and be a blessing to others in need.

Gratitude for the Sewing Machines

Meseret concluded, “We just thank God. You know this project gives hope and a way of surviving for our brothers and sisters who are suffering.” She said it was impossible to give funds to each family in need every month. “But if you equip them with knowledge and give them the resources one time, these people can survive and flourish and support their family. [With a business], you can grow it, and God always uses that small seed to multiply it. We are very grateful for all the ANM donors who are dedicated to supporting our brothers and sisters.”

Help a woman and her family by donating to purchase a sewing machine.

*Names have been changed for security purposes.