Thursday, December 07, 2006

A passion to teach

Fifth in a seven-part series of stories exploring how Mainers are helping neighbors in need.


PressHerald/ Give her some violet or gold fabric, a sewing machine and a well-lit space, and Adele Ngoy can make a beautiful dress for you.

But she would rather have you pull up a chair alongside hers, so she can explain how certain colors work together, show you the precision of the stitching.

She would rather give you something that will last.

"My passion is to teach people, so women can do sewing and alterations in their homes," said Ngoy, who fled civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and arrived in Portland in 2000. "I know I have a lot in me. I want to share that."
Ngoy, 41, is known as a local expert on African clothing.

More than that, she is earning a reputation as a helper in the city's growing immigrant community. Ngoy first volunteered to teach sewing three years ago, and she has made the annual classes a mission of empowerment, designed to provide skills and confidence to refugee women.

Some of her students are mothers who want to make clothes for their families. Some work as laborers full time, and want to find better jobs. All struggle to make ends meet in their new city.

"Some of them have never gone to school," Ngoy said. "Sewing is not easy, but they enjoy it. It's a better job than carrying heavy boxes."

You don't have to look far to see Ngoy's impact. Some of the colorful garments worn here by the women of Somalia, Rwanda, Sudan and other African nations were stitched by Ngoy. Many others were crafted by women who have gone through her free class at the Parkside Neighborhood Center.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

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