Sometimes sharing a common interest is all it takes to bring people together.  In Nebraska, with a rich history of quilting, a cross-cultural quilting project proved to be a perfect opportunity to bring together refugees and the receiving community.

“The Quilted Conscience” is an hour-long documentary by New York-based filmmaker John Sorensen, a native of Grand Island, Nebraska. The film follows 16 Sudanese girls, the newest refugee population in his hometown, as they make a quilt – an activity that provided a safe space for them to talk about painful memories in refugee camps and their war-torn country.

“By bringing together newcomers, sewing experts and Grand Island residents, the quilting project was a healing experience for the young women, and opened the eyes of longtime residents to the richness of cultural diversity in our communities,” said Christa Yoakum of Nebraska is Home, a grassroots effort promoting mutual respect and cooperation among U.S.-born and foreign-born neighbors.

“Sorensen wanted to do something to show how his community was changing. So he brought a master artist to Grand Island to talk about story quilts to a group of Sudanese girls and quilt makers – middle-aged white women. You’d think they’d have nothing in common, but as they worked together, they realized they do.”

As they shared and listened to each other’s family stories, the Midwestern women identified with the girls’ hopes and dreams for the future, and chores like milking cows and fetching water.

The women recognized they shared many of same dreams from when they were younger, and some worked to help the students achieve those dreams, such as by assisting in navigating the college admissions process or finding employment.   Through the project, the women from around the world shared not only a love of quilting but also told their own stories, resulting in a broadened friendship circle.

Nebraska is Home is assisting several other organizations in replicating the project in Lincoln, Nebraska.     

“Weaving is a central part of their culture and their art,” said Yoakum of one of Lincoln’s newest refugee communities. “As the students work with weavers and quilters to create a quilt of their own, they express memories of their homeland even as they envision their dreams for a future in America. Along the way, by exploring contrasts as well as connections, we are learning from them as much as they are learning from us.”

For more information, contact

Christa Yoakum

Coordinator

[email protected]

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