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Stitching together the refugee community in the Queen City, Sew Redi Buffalo creates totes

Posted at 5:35 AM, Dec 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 07:44:54-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A workshop filled with sewing machines and refugees ready to learn, Sew Redi Buffalo is a non-profit organization that teaches refugees how to sew and create bags, coasters, or anything they can think of. REDI stands for Refugee Economic Development Initiative.

"It's fun I love to make bags here," Judith Hlei, a sewist for Sew Redi Buffalo. She's been going to the classes every Saturday morning from 10am until 1pm at the Catholic Charities Immigration and Refugee Assistance Program building at 9 Herkimer Street on Buffalo's West Side for the past year. She says it's her dream to be a designer, and volunteers are helping her accomplish this.

"This is all about self respect, dignity, and pride," Pat Hutton, founder of Sew Redi Buffalo said. "Our clients earn their income, they are so proud of themselves." Eight years ago as an Economics Professor at Canisius College, Pat worked with students to create the non-profit to help refugees learn a valuable skill but also to build friendships and help with their English.

"We are also so proud of the quality of the work," Hutton said. She helps sell the products at craft show across Western New York.

You can also find the bags at the Queen City Pop-up on Main Street. Right now about 25 women show up to the classes each week. For their work, the sewists make 75% of total revenue which adds up to about $15 an hour. Since the beginning in 2011, about 400 people have learned how to sew and be apart of a business.