Update – April 15: Through this project, over 600 much needed caps and headbands were sewn for frontline health workers at Peterborough Regional Health Centre. Here’s a report by Katrina Squazzin for Global News.

Newcomer youth and filmmaker, Shahed Khaito has produced a 2-minute short film based on this initiative. Watch the film here.

As of April 15, a new phase of this project has started, joining the local effort to sew 1000 masks for patients at Peterborough Regional Health Centre. Learn more here.


Posted – April 8:

Collaborating with the New Canadians Centre and Repair Café Peterborough on a project that supports front line healthcare workers at Peterborough Regional Health Centre is a meaningful, community-building experience for Leslie Menagh.  “I’ve been working with the New Canadians Centre for over 1.5 years on a number of different sewing-related initiatives,” says Leslie, a craftsperson who owns and operates Madderhouse Textile Studios at 383 Water Street. “It’s amazing how quickly we were able to pull this initiative together.”

As of April 5, more than 100 volunteers have committed to sewing much-needed head gear for front line healthcare workers at Peterborough Regional Health Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Nurses and doctors need caps and headbands to keep hair back, and some prefer headbands with buttons they can attach their masks to,” Leslie explains. 

Having established a successful partnership with Madderhouse on a number of sewing-related initiatives allowed the New Canadians Centre the opportunity to be involved with this project, explains Reem Ali, Workplace Integration Liaison.  “The work of our sewing program has gained popularity in social media through our work with Madderhouse, and more recently with Watson & Lou. We were introduced to Peterborough’s circle of makers, thereby instilling an increased sense of community and belonging in the participants of our sewing program. In particular, our latest project, ‘Creative Entrepreneurship for Newcomer Women’ supported by the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough and the Equality Fund generated interest and momentum. It focused on gender equality and raised questions about how this type of work, usually conducted by women, is undervalued. Being involved in this current initiative allows us to continue examining existing norms that undermine this type of work, and recognize the impact these women can bring to our community. Coming together for a unified cause also sheds light on the importance of community aid during challenging times.” 

Together, the three partners are coordinating efforts in order to roll out this project as quickly as possible. In doing so, they’ve considered the following:

  • Recruiting volunteers through Madderhouse’s website to broaden the reach to other makers in the community
  • Sharing information through daily updates with the volunteers via email, maintaining a connection with PRHC and other community care centres, regarding their needs and specific requests
  • Sourcing fabric and other materials by putting out a call for donations, and designing a system for receiving and redistribution.

Responding quickly to the urgent need of frontline healthcare workers, Reem says designing the patterns for the caps and headbands was a joint effort that included herself and Leslie, Rabab Ali, Zakia Al-Hadad, Kathryn Bahun, and Lindsay Stroud. “We posted the patterns and prototypes to the Madderhouse website and circulated the information to volunteers. I met with Leslie over the weekend to sort through the donated fabric and materials in the NCC’s sewing room. A distribution plan is currently in place to ensure volunteers who need fabric have access to it.”

In April, the NCC’s sewing program entered its 4th year. It provides skill-building, training, employment, and networking opportunities for newcomer women in the sewing and textiles sector. “In many ways, this current initiative celebrates the importance of such programs and reminds us of their contribution in bringing people together, especially during sensitive and difficult times,” Reem says.  “The NCC’s strong partnerships within the community, and our success and support with the sewing program has enabled us to step up and play a coordinating role in this highly impactful project. Through it all, we are helping our own participants continue to feel empowered and valued as both newcomers and women in our community.”

Volunteers can drop off completed items at the side entrance to Madderhouse, down the alleyway at 383 Water Street between 6-8 pm every night this week. They can also pick up more of the materials in a safe manner considering the current circumstances. “Providing clear instructions and reminders for handling donated fabric to ensure safety for all of our volunteers is top priority,” Reem explains. “We are here to support our volunteers and ensure they’re working in a way that is most comfortable for them.”

People are encouraged to go to visit Madderhouse’s website to learn more about getting involved with this project. “I think the next steps will be for us to roll into some of the other campaigns to make masks and gowns,” Leslie says.  It’s going to be really incredible.”

PRHC Staff wearing caps and headbands sewn by our powerful local community