A group of Afghan women is celebrating more than a year in the new home they've found for their sewing cooperative.
The Malalay Afghan Women's Sewing and Craft Co-operative started several years ago with help from the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.
The idea was to give Afghan women, mostly refugees and widows, a chance to learn some skills while earning a bit of income.
For the first two years, 2006 and 2007, the group mostly focused on getting members trained on how to run a co-op.
"Now we are on our feet. Everyone is training and working," said Leila Akhtary.
The co-op used to be on Edmonds Street, just off of Canada Way, struggling to pay about $1,500 in monthly rent and facing prospects of folding. Former Liberal MLA John Nuraney stepped in and helped the group with a $40,000 government grant and got the women connected to some ongoing funding that lasted a couple of years.
"We are very appreciative to him. He helped us a lot," Akhtary said.
But last year, the money ran out and the group was in trouble again. Then came local MP Peter Julian, Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan and Mayor Derek Corrigan, who also helped the group.
"Peter Julian and Raj Chouhan were like sponsors for us," Akhtary said, adding the mayor helped by providing the group with a new location with lowcost rent.
Last summer, the co-op moved to the Edmonds Neighbourhood Resource Centre, a building that used to be part of Edmonds Community School but is now owned by the City of Burnaby and rented out to non-profit groups.
"It's a big change. We are all happy because it was very hard for us to find money," Akhtary said. "Everything is OK. Everybody is happy. Our goal here is the newcomers from Afghanistan. We talk with them (on) how to live Canada, sew, knit, crochet and also (make) arts and crafts."
Akhtary said most of the women in the co-op don't speak English or have jobs and some are widows with depression.
The group is split in two: the co-op handles the business side, which makes clothes and crafts, while the society manages the social services side, which runs classes to help the women with things like health, depression and adjusting to life in Canada. But money is still tight, so the classes are on hold for now.
The women have applied for some private grants and are hoping for the best.
For more on the co-op, go to www.malalaycooperative.com.