New Creations Trade stepping up to help refugees in Tucson earn a living through sewing lessons

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Photo credit: Doris Carlson

Doris Carlson and her student during one of her sewing lessons.

Fleeing war and trauma can be one of the most challenging experiences a person may endure.

Among the challenges refugees face when arriving in a new country are language barriers or not having a way to make a living. But there's a local faith-based nonprofit organization stepping up to help refugees adjust to their new life and earn an income through sewing.

Founded by Doris Carlson and her spouse, Dave Carlson, New Creations Trade offers sewing lessons to refugees and those in underserved communities in Tucson, skills that often lead to income. 

“What we have tried to do is to meet their needs in any way we can and to offer them the ability to learn a trade so that they can earn an income,” David Carlson said. 

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The organization also teaches product design, machine repair, and English as a second language to individuals who cannot work because of disabilities or language barriers.  

The organization also is environmentally friendly. Recycled clothes and sewing machines are used from donations they receive. 

“Our choice was to take repurposed clothes, repurposed sewing machines, and utilize that, take the trash and turn it into treasures,” Doris Carlson said.

The organization hosts individuals from different countries with different stories and from different religious backgrounds. The couple says most of their students are survivors of war. 

“If we can help someone, we try not to turn them down,” Doris Carlson said.

To honor the students’ homeland and their survival stories, as part of their final project, they are asked to make a bag that tells their story.

Doris Carlson’s proudest moment,  she says, is seeing her students use the skills she has taught them to make a living in a country that was once strange to them and now they call home.

“They became citizens yesterday, which is just so amazing to me, “ Doris Carlson said.  “They and their children are American citizens.” 

Kantarama Joyce, a New Creations student, has taken her sewing skills back home to her country of origin, Rwanda, and is now using them to help those in underserved communities. Joyce, who met the founders of New Creations Trade in 2018 while visiting her son for his graduation, was able to take English and sewing lessons through the foundation.

“That inspired me and I had a goal of learning new skills that could be useful back home,” Joyce said. “My main goal is not to create profit, but to use my skills to help those in need.” 

New Creations Trade was able to fund Joyce’s sewing machine so that she can continue sewing in Rwanda. Today Joyce continues to sew and help communities in Rwanda by donating face masks during the global COVID-19 pandemic. 





This story and the accompanying video were published as part of Al Jisr | The Bridgea collaboration among students and faculty from four public universities in Yemen and faculty and students at The University of Arizona. Students from University of Aden, Hadramout University, Taiz University, University of Saba Region and the UA are participating in this nine-month cultural exchange project that includes talking about media practices in Yemen and the U.S.


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