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Zaman’s new vocational sewing and literacy program gets a “boost” from CFSEM grant

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM) has given Zaman International $60,000 to help launch a vocational sewing and literacy program for economically disadvantaged women in Southeast Michigan.

The sewing program is the most recent addition to Building Ongoing Opportunities Through Skills Training (BOOST), the vocational training and life skills program Zaman has operated since 2007 to provide low-income female heads of households with literacy instruction, GED training, driver’s education, sewing instruction, and emotional support with disabled family members. The sewing and literacy program, which enrolled its first 28 students this month, offers a no-cost, multi-level curriculum covering sewing, math, English proficiency and workplace culture to prepare participants for sewing-related work in Metro Detroit. Key partners in the program are Madison, Wisc.-based The Sewing Machine Project, Pro-Literacy Detroit, and the Dominican Rea Literacy Corporation (Dominican Literacy Center, Siena Literacy, and All Saints Literacy).

Zaman created the BOOST Sewing Program to advance two organizational goals: breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty among Southeast Michigan’s most disadvantaged residents and promoting the revitalization of the regional economy. More than 90% of the families who receive crisis assistance from Zaman live on less than $12,000 per year and are headed by single mothers who lack the job skills, English language proficiency or cultural acclimation to obtain reliable employment. Meanwhile, businesses in Southeast Michigan’s garment and automobile sectors are grappling with a shortage of skilled sewers. The Boost Sewing Program matches a high-need population to a high-need industry, said Zaman International CEO Najah Bazzy.

“Zaman and CFSEM share a commitment to programming that is sustainable for Southeast Michigan’s economy and its communities,” Bazzy said. “The BOOST Sewing Program will achieve positive regional impact through multicounty outreach to residents and businesses and by bringing together various partner organizations that are assisting the sewing program with equipment, expertise and evaluation.”

While a number of Detroit-area programs provide education and employment opportunities for Michigan’s fashion community and for cut-and-sew manufacturers in all industries, the BOOST Sewing Program is unique in the breadth of free support services it offers participants. In addition to its no-cost tuition and focus on literacy instruction, the program provides participants with free childcare, transportation, and social support, as well as entrepreneurial training, professional enrichment activities such as field trips and lectures, sewing-related community service opportunities, and job placement assistance. Students will be placed in beginning, intermediate and advanced sewing classes based on ability and will receive a free sewing machine upon graduating from the program.

The BOOST Sewing Program will be run out of Zaman’s Hope for Humanity Center in Inkster and overseen by BOOST Director Gigi Salka, who has spent numerous years in the non-profit sector. Sewing curriculum development will be led by fashion industry expert and entrepreneur Raghida Abraham, while the literacy curriculum will be led by Debbie Abdulhamid, who has a Masters of Arts in Teaching and many years of teaching experience. Volunteer tutors and sewers will enhance the program by providing individualized and small group learning for the students.

For more information, please contact Salka at 313-551-3994.

Zaman International is a non-profit organization committed to addressing the basic needs and empowerment of marginalized women and children locally and internationally. Founded in 1996 and incorporated in 2004, Zaman has to date assisted more than 125,000 people in Southeast Michigan with food, clothing, furniture, utility assistance, infant burial, and other essential needs, while providing humanitarian relief, disaster response, and access to safe drinking water to an additional 600,000 across the world through international activities and partnerships. Since 2014, Zaman has operated out of the Hope For Humanity Center, a 40,500-square-foot facility in Inkster that houses its crisis assistance, vocational training and life skills programs. For more information, please visit www.zamaninternational.org.

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is a full-service philanthropic organization leading the way to positive change in our region. As a permanent community endowment built by gifts from thousands of individuals and organizations, the Foundation supports a wide variety of activities benefiting education, arts and culture, health, human services, community development and civic affairs. Since its inception, the Foundation has distributed more than $800 million through more than 55,000 grants to nonprofit organizations throughout Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, St. Clair and Livingston counties. For more information, please visit www.cfsem.org.