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Once We Were Refugees

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Job Skills and Entrepreneurial Training For Refugees

Job Skills and Entrepreneurial Training for Refugees
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Sewing Class Graduates


Community Partners




Days A Year

It Started With A Question

“You know how to teach sewing?”  


That question opened a whole new conversation with Abdul Bakar,

former Director of Refugee Services at the Della Lamb Refugee/Adult Education Center.  

Ann Say responded, reluctantly, that yes she does.  

But she was not at all sure that was how she wanted to spend her retirement years!  

This was in the summer of 2016.


Abdul’s challenge has played in her mind ever since.  

He said, “if you have a gift from God and you do not use it, it is no longer a gift.”  

And so began the adventure that has blossomed into a full-time ministry for Ann and for her family.


Ann, along with a growing group of volunteers,

teaches a nine-week beginning sewing class that touches the basics--

sewing straight seams, cutting fabrics from patterns, using elastic, hemming and other skills--

to folks, many of whom have never used a pair of scissors (not to mention an electric sewing machine!)

and most of whom are not at all conversant in the English language. Read More


Thank You to Our Partners!


Mail donations to:


P.O. Box 81

Lees Summit, MO 64063


Rev. William B. Say   816-572-0711

Ann L. Say  816-564-2617

Thanks for submitting!


It Started With A Question (continued)


At the end of nine weeks, if the assignments have been completed satisfactorily, each student will take home a Certificate of Accomplishment, the machine they have learned on, a new pair of scissors, an iron, ironing board, thread, notions, and ten yards of fabric.  They have completed five different sewing projects, the last of which is a quilt by each student that will be sent to Lutheran World Relief for transmission to refugee camps and other places of need around the world.  Incredibly generous donors from the greater Kansas City community and far beyond have donated all of the machines, tools, and materials that are used in this process!


By December 2020 over 143 students have passed the beginners’ class.  They are eligible to move up to intermediate tutoring where they learn more complex sewing skills.  Those students are enabled and encouraged to make items that are marked:  “Handmade in the USA by Once We Were Refugees” and then offered for sale at various events around the city.  100% of the proceeds of those sales are then returned to the students to help supplement the family income.  It is a truly exciting moment when a refugee receives the first income generated by her or his own hands in their new homeland!


Started with A Question
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