Knit to Heal

04 April 2017

"I wish this group happened everyday. If you did this everyday, I would be so happy to come."
— UHHR Knitting Group Participant

The UHHR Women's Knitting Group began in November 2015 without any major expectations. The idea was to help women come together, socialize, move around in a new space, and gain a sense of mastery regardless of their country of origin, spoken English skills or familiarity with the surrounding community. The goals have been repeatedly achieved each week and the impact has been profound for our older female clients. One participant's daughter said, "My mom doesn't have anything to do, nowhere to go except for medical appointments, and she can't understand American TV because it's not in our language. My mom is very lonely staying at home alone all the time while my brother and I work. She has been so happy to come to the group each week and make friends.".

Some of the women had learned to knit in their younger years, before their refugee experience began, and haven't practiced the skill in decades. Others are learning to knit for the first time, and have expressed excitement over learning a skill that they enjoy and can produce warm clothing and decorative items for their homes. The women are gaining confidence in themselves as the group progresses. They problem-solve for themselves rather than immediately asking for outside help or doubting their own abilities. When a project reaches completion, there is a great celebration with clapping and laughter to celebrate the participant's success.

As one of the facilitators, I've observed participants beginning to teach others the skills they've learned. They call one another "mwalem" or teacher in Swahili. I've also observed how their dress has changed over time. The participants now arrive at the cafe wearing their nicest dresses and headscarves. They also move around the cafe comfortably and have occasional conversations with interested patrons who stop to admire their work. The UHHR Knitting Group seems to provide a well-needed respite for women who have survived so much. The ability to come together, sit in a circle, drink tea, joke, laugh, and learn from one another is more therapeutic than we could have imagined.