When refugees come to the United States for refuge, they've already lived a hard life. But one organization in Houston is trying to make their lives better by showcasing their talents, and helping them earn money.
That group is known as The Community Cloth.
"They are strong and have so much to offer our city and our community," says the group's Co-founder Roxanne Paiva about the refugee women she works with. She's on a mission to empower them. Many come to the country with artistic talents that can be nurtured. Helping them find resources and teaching them basic business skills is the epitome of "teach a man to fish."
"They wanted an opportunity to take their product to market, and they didn't want a handout from us."
Paiva says she's working with more than 2 dozen artisans from The Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Myanmar, just to name a few. And she introduced us to Muna Tamanz, a refugee originally from Bhutan.
Muna says a political crisis in Bhutan drove her family from the country when she was 12. She then lived 18 years at a refugee camp in Nepal before coming to Houston.
Muna knits sweaters, scarves and hats to sell through the Community Cloth. She says that helps her pay bills, but she says the organization has done much more for her in other ways. It's been a way to meet friends, make important contacts, and help others. Muna is now teaching other refugees like herself.
"I have more than 75 students in one location," she says about her English as a Second Language class. Muna's involved in citizenship classes as well. " I am interested in making my community more educated."
You will help Community Cloth artisans just by buying one of their handcrafted items, but there's a simple way to do even more. Paiva says some their best events are Community Cloth parties at private homes. This is an opportunity for invited guests to buy handcrafted items, but also meet the artisans, and understand more about their lives both then and now.
Right now, in the days leading up to Mothers' Day, The Community Cloth also has a program to Honor a Mother by Sponsoring a Mother. More information is available at the web site TheCommunityCloth.org.