Women Entrepreneurs Graduate in VA
Dar al-Hijra graduates another class
By Kara Brunson
Islamic Relief USA sponsors the sewing academy, a program launched by Dar al-Hijrah Social Services, to support socio-economic development goals for the local community. Students become certified seamstresses upon completion of 100 hours of hands-on training in the 4-month program.
Stacey Picard, Associate Director of Dar al-Hijrah Social Services and Tahhani Gibaran, Director of Dar al-Hijrah Social Services co-led Tuesday’s event, which was notable for a series of firsts. This spring cohort, the organization’s fifteenth since the academy launched eight years ago, was the first to attend the sewing academy in person since social-distancing restrictions were put in place last spring. The cohort was welcomed to February’s start of class with brand new and upgraded equipment, with a class of beginner and advanced students.
Beginning with a blessing
Imam Farhan Siddiqui opened the ceremony with words of prayer and a reminder of the importance and duty of men and women to support each other to advance the success of the whole community. Recounting the difficulties this cohort overcame this year to participate in the program, he noted the challenges each of the 11 women faced being homebound and needing childcare to attend classes. As he emphasized the value of empowerment in creating opportunities, he added the role each person plays in encouraging others to do good and learn a new skill.
Beginner students in the sewing academy learn foundational skills such as how to cut fabric, read and cut patterns, sew essential stitches, and operate sewing machines. Advanced students learned the skills to pursue income-generating opportunities such as alterations, commercial draperies, and upholstery.
Firing on all cylinders
Janine Ali, past graduate of the sewing academy and participant in 2018, recounted the incredible value this program brings to the community, beyond the technical training. In her view, the academy is a precious source of community where “sisters stay in touch still.” Indeed, a few past participants go on to mentor new students in the program. Through the social service network, local organizations can use the talents of these trained seamstresses. In one highlight, Culmore Clinic received curtains to establish privacy screens during patient visits. And to help support needs for personal protective equipment in Fairfax County, Virginia, all cohorts produced 1500 masks as a donation to first responders last year through the organization’s collaboration with Volunteer Fairfax.
IRUSA support of Dar al-Hijrah Social Services programming was expanded this year to include new projects related to healthcare, food access, housing, GED preparation, CPR certification, medical assistant training, employment access, IT training, and an entrepreneurial bootcamp, among others.