On December 14th, we held our Sewing For Jobs graduation ceremony to celebrate the end of the fall semester, and wow was it one for the books!
We kicked off the afternoon with a few words from our Executive Director, Julia, and one of our Board Members, Dan Rutbingwa Gakire, who both spoke highly of the graduates and their hard work.
"Congratulations on your amazing achievement! This is just the start of a bright future, and you are destined for even greater things. I am proud of all of you. Seeing your accomplishments, your pride in your work, and the joy that you and your families are experiencing right now is truly rewarding for both the board and staff." - Dan Rutabingwa Gakire
With a soundtrack of applause and Alicia Keys, we transitioned into into our Fashion Show, which featured creations from our 15 graduates’ semester of work.
“The fashions were FIERCE and the message behind them was even better!” - Stéphanie Plante, Vanier-Rideau City Councillor.
We were honoured to have not one, not two, but four incredible guest speakers during this ceremony, including: City Councillor Stéphanie Plante, fashion designer, business owner, and pattern-making instructor Frank Sukhoo, and Juliette Champagne, the sister of our late founder, Lucile Champagne. Towards the end of the event, we were fortunate to hear from one of our dear volunteers, Ingrid Fish, who spoke on behalf of our volunteer community here at EcoEquitable.
Councillor Plante brightened an already glowing room, when she took the stage to speak about the importance of programs like Sewing For Jobs. Reflecting on the day, she had this to say:
“Seeing these women sashay at the graduation with their creations was absolutely inspiring and jaw-dropping. The fashions were FIERCE and the message behind them was even better: Fashion can save the planet, teach you new skills and make a statement at the same time. Bravo to the graduates and bravo to EcoEquitable for being a wonderful community partner and extra special thanks to the volunteers and staff who make it all come together!” -Councillor Plante
Frank Sukhoo was our second guest speaker. When he’s not teaching EcoEquitable’s own Pattern-Making Public Class, Frank is busy teaching at Richard Robinson, and running his custom suiting boutique, Sukhoo Sukhoo Khooture in the Byward Market.
Frank regaled us with tales of his own inspiring fashion and career story, including how he got started, and where he is now with his own business!
Perhaps the most heartwarming moment during the ceremony came when Julia welcomed Juliette Champagne to the stage to say a few words.
We recently reconnected with Juliette in the last weeks of 2023, when she called asking about whether we do clothing repairs. We took her on as a client through our Job Referral Program to provide an in-class paid internship for our Level 3 student, and when we heard her last name, we had to ask.
“Champagne. Is there any relation to Lucile Champagne?”
“Yes, she was my sister.”
We were so grateful to have Juliette speak about Lucile, and how happy she is to see that EcoEquitable has not only survived the test(s!) of time, but has begun to thrive as an educational program and sustainable fabric hub.
Three Cheers for Volunteers!
Volunteers are one of the most important pillars to EcoEquitable’s success, and we were so happy to have a chance to hear from one of our volunteers, Ingrid, and to give an appreciation gift to all who were present.
Ingrid spoke about her experience as a volunteer over the years, and how glad she is that EcoEquitable is continuing to grow and evolve.
Our Program Coordinator, Carolina, and Program Assistant, Faezeh, said a few words of appreciation for our volunteers before presenting them each with a gift of gratitude for the work they have done this past semester.
“Dedication, patience, and creativity” - Belkis
We heard from our teachers, Belkis and Carroll, who had nothing but pride and joy to share about their students’ achievements.
“These students continue to surprise me. I always say that when it comes to sewing, in any capacity but especially in a classroom setting, the most important things are dedication, patience, and creativity, and each of these women has excelled because they have these qualities.” - Belkis
Belkis and Carroll presented our graduates with their certificates, and the room was alight with happiness for these creative folks who now get to begin the next chapter of their professional journeys.
We also got the chance to hear from student representatives of each class, who charmed both laughter and inspiration out of an audience of friends, family, Eco staff, and supporters.
From Level One, we heard from Deborah, who inspired the audience with her reflections on the past semesters lessons, both in sewing and personal growth, and who coaxed giggles from her classmates with shared inside jokes.
From Level Two, we heard from Mercedes and Joy, two Sewing For Jobs sophomores who relayed stories of struggles, working together, and accomplishing their garment tasks in between shared smiles. Their speech truly highlighted their team spirit and blossoming of friendships.
Our Level Three graduate was Selina, who charmed us with her wit and wordplay, citing the semester’s lessons in “how “tailors hams” for ironing are actually shaped like meat, how “pinking shears” for cutting zig zag edges on fabric have nothing to do with the colour pink, “basting” stitches have nothing to do with gravy and wooden ironing “clappers” for holding down and setting folds in fabric has no clapping involved. Sewing can be funny.”
“Let the Good Hems Roll” - Selina
We would be remiss if we didn’t extend a very heartfelt thank you to Deborah Doherty, who volunteered her time to MC the event, ensuring everything ran smoothly and on time. Thank you to The Ottawa Mission’s Chef Ric Catering, who catered the event hosted in Heartwood House, with delicious sandwiches, coffee, and tea. Lastly but certainly not least, special thank you and gratitude to Lorayne Katz, who EcoEquitable commissioned to sew and create 25 custom-made pouches that were given to our dedicated volunteers as gifts. Thank you to everyone who made the 2023 Graduation Ceremony amazing and meaningful!
As we move into our next semester beginning on February 12, 2024, we are happy to welcome back the graduates of Levels One and Two as they move forward in their Sewing For Jobs education, and we are excited to stay in touch with our Level Three graduates through our Job Referral Program.
Interviews for our Winter Semester are beginning this month. Although our application portal is now closed, folks can keep their eye out for when it reopens again for applications on May 1, 2024.
We want to extend our thanks to The Government of Canada for funding that they provided through the Community Services Recovery Fund (CSRF), which has allowed us to innovate and bring our Sewing For Jobs program back to life. In particular, the CSRF has supported EcoEquitable to develop a program evaluation strategy including qualitative and quantitative approaches to impact measurement, ongoing digitization of curriculums, developing processes to recruit, track, process, onboard, and maintain post-graduation relationships with students, and tracking impact to feed into impact reports and communication tools.
If you have questions about our Sewing For Jobs or Job Referral Program, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.