It’s in the bag: community collaboration set to make a big splash

Next month, over forty children with asthma will dive back into their swim program and leave the lesson with a carefully crafted bag in which they can safely store their puffers and spacers.

Twelve women from the sewing group at STEPS Education and Training volunteered their time and sewing skills to make 300 nifty bags and they are thrilled with how their handiwork will benefit local people.

The swimmers, aged between 18 months and 12 years, participate in the Asthma Foundation Northern Territory’s Asthma Swim Program – a long running program that provides children with the opportunity to engage in regular exercise while parents receive support with asthma management from a qualified asthma educator.

This crafty project results from community collaboration between the STEPS Palmerston Sewing Group, the Asthma Foundation Northern Territory (AFNT) and the Palmerston Lions Club.

AFNT Executive Manager Leanne Elliott-Holmes said they had been looking to make bags for their clients because safely storing and carrying a spacer is important.

“We received a donation from the Palmerston Lions Club to have spacer bags made up for our Asthma Swim children but also for other people with asthma in the community,” she said.

“A spacer is a plastic cylinder device to put on puffers and it allows people to get the medication a lot easier, so people who have asthma and use a puffer should be using a spacer as well,” Ms Elliot-Holmes said.

“They can’t be kept in plastic because it creates static and reduces its effectiveness.”

Ms Elliot-Holmes said the collaboration became a really good community project to focus on, particularly in the changing times of COVID-19.

Ms Elliot-Holmes said she was impressed with the beautiful bags the sewing group made and was astounded at how many bags they made.

“STEPS kept us updated, and we received photos of the ladies making them, and it was really lovely.

“It’s definitely a fantastic community program,” she said.

Ms Elliott-Homes said they have had a lot of interest on Facebook and expect they will be very popular.

STEPS Palmerston Business Manager Yvonne Coleman said it was wonderful that the sewing group and their skills were recognised in the Darwin community.

“It’s great that we can collaborate with other organisations, widen our impact on the community, and make a difference in people’s lives.

Ms Coleman said people have started to reach out and seek the assistance of the sewing group.

“Our sewing group has also sewed mittens and pouches for animals affected by bushfires at Koalas In Care.

Ms Coleman said the sewing group started out as a social group where people could learn and build skills.

“Over the years, with the hard work of our sewing instructor Kerri Roberts, the group developed and is now very community-focused.

“The group is always looking for ways to use their skills and gives back to the community.”

The crafty sewing group at STEPS Education and Training in Palmerston meet every Wednesday and includes members from the Skills for Education and Employment and the Adult Migrant English Program. For more information, call 08 79225 700.

The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs.

The Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

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STEPS AMEP student Mohammad BelalSTEPS AMEP student Sherry Haynes at her work