In Dublin Caroline Gardner is Making Good
The brainchild of New Zealander Caroline Gardner and Irish woman Joan Ellison, Dublin’s We Make Good teams designers with people who face social difficulties and challenges, to create lovely things that everyone can feel very good about. They also link makers with buyers, either via their own website, or through managing contracts and connections. Gemma Tipton reports on the social enterprise for The Irish Times.
It all started when Ellison came to work with Quality Matters, Gardner says. “I came here by accident,” she says. “And I loved it so I stayed.”
Quality Matters is a charity that aims to help other not-for-profits and charities do what they do better. “We’d been looking at how to develop social enterprise,” Gardner says, “and it all came together.” She laughs ruefully at the picture that paints, when really “it was the result of thousands of hours of work”. Ellison, who is from Ardee in County Louth, had been working in communications and retail, but had always liked to get hands on with stuff: “I’ve been a maker since a very early age,” Ellison says. “Knitting, sewing, DIY, baking, highly amateur woodwork… I have always had a fascination with how things are made, how they work, and how they get fixed.”
Set up two years ago, We Make Good is anything but a quick fix, and the results are truly remarkable. This year, the organisation set up its own textile workshop in Dublin, where Ginan Abbas, originally from Iraq, works with women who have come through or are still in direct provision.
“Sewing and fashion is my passion,” Abbas says. The women on her team come from different backgrounds, and are employed by the workshop, while also learning new skills and techniques. “The most special thing,” she says, “is that we work in such a nice and happy environment.”
This is echoed by Virginie Gnrofoun, originally from Togo, who came to Ireland in 2005. Like many of the women involved, she had been a dressmaker, working from home, before she came to this country. With We Make Good, she is not only learning new techniques with new machines, but is improving her language and vocabulary. “To speak English every day is good,” Gnrofoun says. But what is most special is that “we are comfortable here. It makes us happy. We are free and happy.”
Original article by Gemma Tipton, The Irish Times, December 21, 2019.
Photo by Dara Mac Dónaill.