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Congolese Woman Helps Immigrants Learn New Life Skills

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Photo Credi: WCSH6

Story originally published by WCSH6.

Adele Ngoy is a special kind of person.

After fleeing her home in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area that was in the middle of a deadly civil war, she arrived in Portland, Maine, in search of a better and safer life for her and her three children. Adele knew no one and spoke no English, but she did have one skill that would eventually inspire other immigrants—she knew how to sew.

Adele took a seamstress job at David’s Bridal shop upon her arrival in America, knowing that the position was only a stepping stone to what she ultimately wanted. Now nearly a decade later, she just recently opened her own shop that also offers sewing classes to new immigrants and refugees.

“It’s very important for me to see someone coming here just because I came here this same way, I didn’t know any word in English,” Adele told WCSH6. “The only thing that I have when I came was my skill. I brought my skill with me.”

Back home, Adele was a big deal. A popular seamstress in the fashion design world, Adele teaches her students step-by-step how to create a piece of clothing. This includes tracing patterns onto fabric, cutting, and then pinning the pieces before they step foot behind a sewing machine. Adele’s goal is not to mold sewers, but to create professional stitchers.

“Many people do a lot of sewing, but to be a professional stitcher, to walk into a factory, you need to have a certain skill and certain knowledge to do that,” Adele said.

Stitching skills aren’t the only thing Adele teaches, but she also incorporates lessons about the importance of being present with family and engaged in the community.

“We talk about life in America, how they’re going to deal with the workplace, how it’s important for them to speak English, how it’s important to be part of their kid’s life, we talk about everything,” Adele said. “I’m just kind of a mentor for them.”

Adele hopes that her story will inspire her students to create their own hopes and dreams, and then give them the courage to achieve those goals.

“I help them to have a self-esteem and trust themselves because when they see me, it gives them hope,” Adele said. “Like I always tell them, ‘If I did it, you can do it.'"