Refugee knitting group to sell crafts at Hanukkah Market

30 October 2018
The Utah Health & Human Rights knitting group gathers at Tracy Aviary during the summer of 2018. The Utah Health & Human Rights knitting group gathers at Tracy Aviary during the summer of 2018.

For about two years, Utah Health & Human Rights’ knitting group has given torture survivors the opportunity to learn a therapeutic activity and form new friendships.

However, an event happening in mid-November will take the group’s benefits even further by letting participants show off their work and earn a bit of income to help support their families.

Members of UHHR’s knitting group will host a booth at The Jewish Community Center’s upcoming Hanukkah Market, where they’ll sell a wide variety of handmade items. Hats, scarves, purses, shawls and outfits for babies will be available for between $4 and $30.

About a dozen of the group’s participants — mostly Congolese and Iraqi women — will sell their crafts at the event, which runs from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, at the center, located at 2 N. Medical Dr. in Salt Lake City. The money from all items sold at the event will go directly to the woman who made it.

UHHR, which started the knitting group, provides a spectrum of mental health, physical health, and case management services to refugees, immigrants, asylees and asylum-seekers who experienced torture or severe war trauma before resettling in Utah. At any given time, UHHR is serving about 350 survivors, as well as their family members.

Knitting Collage

The knitting group serves two primary purposes — to teach UHHR clients a therapeutic activity and to help them build social connections.

Knitting can help alleviate depression, anxiety, and chronic pain, which many torture survivors cope with on a daily basis. On top of these trauma-related health struggles, refugees and immigrants often experience extreme social isolation due to their new country’s cultural and language barriers.

So, every Tuesday, the knitting group women gather at UHHR to practice the calming craft, sip tea, and make friends who speak their native language.

“This group has saved my life,” one of the group’s regulars said.

The woman — a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo — said she used to stay home by herself all of the time, sick and in pain.

Then, she started attending the knitting group.

“I now have friends, and I am good at something,” she said.

Sometimes, when she knits at her apartment complex, the woman’s neighbors come up to see what she’s working on. When they compliment her on her craft, she feels pride in what she’s doing.

“I still have pain and stress in my life, but now I have something to do that distracts me,” she said. “When I feel bad, I pick up the yarn and sticks and make new things.”

For more information about the knitting group or its booth at the Hanukkah Market, get in touch with Amal Muftin at .