htE workshops were a main-stay on my Saturday schedules for almost a year now. I was looking for a volunteering opportunity in New York City that met two criteria: it would allow me to exercise my Mandarin and it would meet on weekends.
I found htE through a larger organization. They described the opportunity as a “sewing” workshop. And with that, I was told to show up in a part of New York that I had never been to, in order to translate to teach a skill that I had no experience in.
So you can imagine that before my first trip to the shelter, I was nervous. Not only because I didn’t know how to sew, but also because I never had exposure to survivors of domestic abuse. Did I need to be more sensitive about certain topics? How should I best cater to their needs?
I soon learned however, that I shouldn’t have been worried at all. True, the only thing that the survivors and I had in common was our lack of exposure to sewing and crafts—but this was also what bonded us, and it continues to be a bond amongst the survivors who come from very different backgrounds themselves.
It turns out that basic sewing was not that hard, which was good, because I needed to learn how to do it in two languages. Yes, there were times in which I had to resort to hand gestures, but in translating the steps to the survivors, I in turn learned how to sew myself.
So, during workshop down-times, I decided to start on my own project.
I took the cloth of a sweatshirt and t-shirt to make my cat pillow.
It took me several weeks given the sporadic periods of time that I had during some sessions, but I finally finished it.
As you can tell, this cat pillow is not going to make it into Pottery Barn magazines anytime soon—while it is soft and fuzzy, its bow is a little bit asymmetrical, and you can see the hem lines on the edges.
But this was not the goal for its creation!
The goal of the cat pillow (and the projects of survivors) was to experience the happiness and satisfaction of completing something that I designed, from start to finish. It was about overcoming the daunting challenge of learning something new, putting the effort into realizing what only started as an idea in my head, and taking graciously donated items and giving them new life and meaning.
So how can you help? By purchasing products from the htE store, you can help show support for survivors and their creativity. These survivors have proudly displayed their crafts and their inspirations on the etsy website, and I hope you have the time to take a look.
You can also inquire about volunteering with us! For me personally, volunteering with htE has been very rewarding–I have gained a new life skill while also giving back to the community. I am excited to see how the htE community grows in the future
"Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion.”
- Dalai Lama