Project stitches together cultures

International students at a University co-op come together to share their cultures by putting together a quilt.

by Elizabeth Giorgi

The threads of a quilt can tie together parts of the world that otherwise never would touch.

In the Commonwealth Terrace Cooperative community, families of international students have gathered every Friday for the past six weeks as part of the “Soup and Stitches” program to learn how to sew.

Starting in March, each person designed a quilt square that represented their homeland and culture. After six weeks, the group will have a quilt constructed that represents their community.

Sewing instructor Lynn Cooper said she has been teaching sewing classes for many years and enjoys doing cultural projects because there is more to learn than just sewing when people have different stories to share.

“It is always amazing to me how we teach people all the same techniques and processes but the end pieces are totally different,” she said.

Sewing is an opportunity for people to express themselves and their history, she said.

Avrora Moussorlieva came to the University from Bulgaria when her husband decided to go to school here.

As Moussorlieva sewed the final beads on her square, she said she had very little sewing experience before she joined the group.

The creativity and the people have been the best aspects of the project, she said, because it is fun to be around people who also are learning something new.

“People should try something new and share your cultures with others,” she said.

Project coordinator and graduate student Kaoru Kinoshita said the program was sponsored by The Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education as a chance for international students and their spouses to learn something new.

Previously, there had been problems in the Commonwealth Terrace community with violence and miscommunication, she said.

This caused The Aurora Center to believe there was a need for creating educational outreach projects to facilitate positive activities, she said.

“We are developing a sense of community and peace,” she said.

Divya Nambiar, originally from India, said she joined the group because she wanted to improve her sewing skills and meet more people who lived in the Commonwealth community.

On Friday Nambiar helped a friend put the finishing touches on a quilt square that showed a mountain range.

She said she enjoyed sharing stories with new people and making friends while working on something together as a group.

“I’ve been able to learn about new cultures and share my own,” she said.

For the final part of the project, Cooper will assemble all the pieces of the cultural quilt for the group, Kinoshita said.

After the quilt is completed, people can see it in the fireplace room of the Commonwealth cooperative

“It will be a great outcome that represents diversity and peace,” Kinoshita said.