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SisterWorks x CwC: the power of a conscious partnership to change lives

SisterWorks x CwC: the power of a conscious partnership to change lives

Words by Riley Wilson

At SisterWorks, CEO Ifrin Fittock (pictured left) welcomes new visitors with a smile and easily recounts their names. Here, every Sister has a story.

SisterWorks, a nonprofit social enterprise that supports refugee, migrant and asylum-seeking women through work, education and entrepreneurship, is a lifeline for many of Melbourne and Victoria’s newest residents. The Abbotsford location currently serves as an education centre and empowerment training hub for the many women who walk through the doors annually. It’s anchored with sewing machines, crates of craft supplies and a bustling community kitchen area with coffee machines that Sisters use to earn industry-specific training.

This week, Ifrin and SisterWorks celebrated the opening of the new production and manufacturing hub in Springvale. 

"This new location allows us to double our capacity and hire more sisters from the local area, significantly impacting the community." says Ifrin. 

 

It’s a particularly poignant celebration during Refugee Week (until Saturday June 22), which aims to promote greater awareness of refugees, the issues they face and the contributions refugees are making to the Australian community. Over the past 10 years, SisterWorks has supported over 2500 women from 105 countries to transition to life in Australia and a skills-based future. In the year to date, 311 sisters graduated from programs, 139 gained employment, 31 started their own business and 259 participated in life-skill classes.

A shared passion for social enterprise, bettering communities and helping those in need makes SisterWorks and Curated with Conscience logical partners, says Ifrin, who started with the social enterprise as a volunteer in 2017.

“We are actually growing together,” says Ifrin. “They're growing and generating income for our business and we are also growing. And hopefully that will become a catalyst for other people to do the same, to – like Michelle – trust us and say, ‘if Curated with Conscience can do that, can trust SisterWorks, then I will do the same’.”

 

Ifrin and Curated with Conscience founder Michelle Smith first met in 2018, after Michelle strolled past SisterWorks’ then-hub and instantly connected with the signage that read “work empowers women”.

“I got really excited about the idea of bundling SisterWorks products in my hampers because the values alignment was perfect,” says Michelle. “I later had a lovely phone chat with Ifrin, and she extended a very kind invitation for me to meet her and some of the entrepreneur Sisters in person so that we could get to know each other better.”

After that meeting, Michelle placed an order for fig jam, made from a traditional Persian family recipe belonging to a sister named Vajiheh.

“She came to our first shop in Swan Street and she bought samples on that day,” says Ifrin. “Basically from there on, she created sample hampers and then the business grew to where she is today. And she is the first one that incorporated any of our products into hampers.”

 

Since then, both SisterWorks and Curated with Conscience have experienced significant growth, elevating the conversation about social enterprises and purpose-driven consumerism in the process.

"It's six years down the track, our order volumes have grown exponentially, and we've had huge success employing Sisters to manage hamper fulfilment during the previous two pre-Christmas trading periods," says Michelle.

“We want to continue to challenge the normal purchase and say, ‘there is actually a purchase you can make that is going to generate impact in the life of others’,” says Ifrin. “And this is why I like Curated with Conscience: because that is exactly the mission that she is doing, putting all the social enterprises in the hampers. We just happen to be one of the first ones, and we’re very proud of that. Having Michelle promote social enterprises though her hampers is only going to be good for us and all the other social enterprises.”

Curated with Conscience is proud to showcase SisterWorks products in the Conscious Pantry, Cuppa with a Conscience, I am a Goddess (Mini), Day Spa at Home, and Graze hampers – which directly support women refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to improve their confidence, sense of belonging, and economic outlook.

 

“It’s a great partnership because we're both committed to economically empowering women from marginalised communities and creating positive social impact,” Michelle says. “But I think the secret sauce is that we both entered the partnership with the view of "let's see what works and what doesn't, and refine as we go along". It's the entrepreneurial culture that makes SisterWorks stand out from other not-for-profits.”

This year, Refugee Week hinges on the theme of Finding Freedom, with a particular focus on family. As women walk through the doors at SisterWorks, sharing laughter, stories and skills, the bond of a chosen family is very clear. Many of these talented, capable women have families of their own at home, and their choices to seek out education, entrepreneurial skills and support through SisterWorks is the very key to a new freedom – and a new chapter.

“Supporting refugee and asylum-seeker women is our day-to-day job,” says Ifrin. “It’s great to celebrate Refugee Week to acknowledge the contributions of these valuable new members of Australian society.”

 

For more information, visitrefugeeweek.org.au orsisterworks.org.au.


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