About Us

DREAM STITCHES is a community-based sewing program for migrant and refugee women sponsored by The Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, in partnership with the Anglican Parish of Box Hill.

This program was established by the Anglican Church as one of its many responses to the needs of recently arrived Southern Sudanese Refugees, who after many years in refugee camps arrived with little education and few job-related skills. Christians believe that to live their faith they should be active in welcoming newcomers and helping those in need. The program reflects basic Christian beliefs of respect, care and friendship with others. 

The women in this program are taught by a dedicated group of volunteers who include skilled dressmakers, professional tailors, pattern makers, women with extensive experience in the garment industry and craftswomen including a well-known quilter. Each volunteer works on a one to one basis with a woman learning to sew. Initially the program welcomed refugee women from South Sudan, teaching them to sew so that they could make clothes for themselves and their families and thus supplement their income. It now includes refugee women from other communities including…Rawandan, Sri Lankan and Iranian. Some of our students have now reached a standard where they are able to support their families. The name Dream Stitches reflects their dream for this fledging enterprise.

It is financially supported by the Melbourne Anglican Foundation, Anglicare Victoria, various philanthropic trusts and many parish and private donations. Additional support has come from both state government and the City of Whitehorse grants, which have enabled the purchase of domestic and industrial sewing machines along with other equipment. This program began in 2004.

Stitching for their future    

"There is a purposeful buzz in a church hall in the Box Hill Parish, as eighteen refugee and migrant women gathered for their weekly sewing class, discuss their next project with one of the experienced volunteers. Piles of colourful cushions, children’s track suits, elegant dresses and a rack of cassocks, cas/albs and choir robes are evidence of their enterprise. 

Funded initially by the Anglican Foundation and in partnership with Anglicare and the Anglican Parish of Box Hill, this program, Dream Stitches, has been running for twelve years. 

On a recent visit I asked what does this program mean to them? A newly arrived refugee from Sri Lanka, with five children at school, said she was so lonely at home but the sewing classes got her out of the house. She is learning how to make children’s clothes and make new friends. A young Rwandan woman, who travelled by public transport from Dandenong, said that she was able to practice her English as well as learning new skills.A longtime participant from Southern Sudan, and now interpreter, mentioned that the sewing was important but it was the friendship and advice offered by the volunteers that had helped her settle into the community. Although her English was poor, a smiling Rohinga woman from Myanmar kept repeating that she was so happy to be here. 

This very ordinary church hall, has become the centre of a thriving cottage industry where refugee and migrant women are empowered and find friendship among the sewing machines."

 Dr Irene Donohoue Clyne

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