In a supportive, welcoming space, ten women meet weekly and over tea and knitting, but this isn’t just any knitting circle. Bringing together newly arrived refugees and church volunteers, women knit, but they also practice yoga and talk about what is happening in their lives. The women make new friendships, learn from each other’s experiences, and help each other. Mental health professionals and social service providers also attend on occasion to make services available in an informal setting through trusted connections.
In 2008, MCC Refugee Services convened a Refugee Healing Resources Workgroup to explore how to better meet the mental health needs of refugees. The workgroup observed a number of gaps in services and confirmed MCC’s fear that connecting refugees to mainstream mental health services can be difficult. This working group gave rise to the idea for a refugee knitting collective.
With the help of volunteers, the Knitting Collective provides accessible mental health supports and imparts daily skills like taking the bus and, of course, knitting. Women coming to the group have started at all knitting skill levels, and have had fun learning in a supportive environment.
The Refugee Knitting Collective is now in its second year, and meets at a South Minneapolis church. The Collective participants include approximately five members of the church congregation, five refugee women and children, three MCC volunteers, and MCC staff members. MCC Refugee Services plans to expand the project with a recent grant from the Connect for Health Challenge of the Blue Cross Foundation.