Dinithi, originally from Sri Lanka, first came to Australia in 2017 with her husband and young daughter. One of her most challenging times in Australia was during the COVID- 19 lockdown in Melbourne. “I was actually mentally down because we were all trapped inside the house. Especially [as] my daughter and my husband were working from home. It was very, very difficult to manage everything.”
In 2020, SisterWorks developed an online learning platform – the SisterWorks e-Hub. Dinithi says the e-Hub was a great learning tool and gave her a sense of community during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I saw a message on [the] SisterWorks [Whatsapp] group from [a SisterWorks staff member] saying ‘We are starting face mask training, who wants to join?’. I was the first one to reply. I said, ‘I wish I had a sewing machine to join this class.’ I was wishing from inside my heart … It’s good if I have [a sewing machine] then I could join this class because I was very bored. I didn’t have anything to do except cooking and looking after my daughter. Before [the lockdown], I was going out with her, but now it was terrible… and then Dani said, ‘we can borrow you one Dinithi if you want. We can lend you one’. “
Dinithi was quick to jump at the opportunity. She first started in face mask training but was soon joining in on all the SisterWorks e-Hub workshops. “I joined the upcycling class, the beginners sewing class, face mask training, hand stitching, [and] crochet class. SisterWorks is providing all the material. From needle to A4 paper to pencil, ruler, fabric everything.”
Despite her enthusiasm, finding time for herself during lockdown proved difficult. But Dinithi managed to find a moment here and there. “[Because of] our daughter, it’s challenging to do everything at home, and our car is the workspace for everyone, so [the] last three crochet classes I did in the car. I remember the teacher was asking, ‘Dinithi are you driving?’ And I [said] ‘no, no I don’t drive. I cannot drive. I am in the garage!’.”
Laughing, she says: “What happened in 15 minutes is my husband and daughter walk into the car to participate in the class with me!”
Despite her interrupting guests, Dinithi felt that the skills she gained were a highlight during COVID restrictions. “I recently made a beautiful beanie for my daughter, and my husband is asking for one now in black.”
However, most important for Dinithi was the sense of community and social connection. “We meet new friends from online classes and especially Annie*. She is a very good friend of mine. I think she joined online classes, and we private message as well. We share our experiences, and during classes, we have chit-chats… it keeps us alive, these online classes.”
She describes these connections as unparalleled. “It’s a very bright side [of] what SisterWorks is doing during this pandemic. If these classes [are] not there, I don’t know what mental position I would have right now… because of these classes we are keeping alive. SisterWorks is keeping us alive. Thank you for that and all the supporters.”
Dinithi is now an entrepreneur, selling her products through the SisterWorks store and in local markets. We loved Dinithi’s story so much that we will tell you more about her in another blog post. Stay tuned!
*Name has been changed for the purpose of the blog post.