I came across the Denver Refugee Women's Craft Initiative  (link no longer available through the About Jewelry forum some time ago. The driving force behind this project "helping women achieve self-sufficiency through the beauty of handmade crafts" is a remarkable group of ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers and volunteers. They work with refugee women to help them develop skills and become confident in their new homeland.

Sharon McCreary, a Volunteer Coordinator also known as Glinda of the North on the forum contacted me after I posted about how fast young beaders work in comparison to adults. She wanted tips on how to slow down teenagers.  She said "the teens in our group learned how to make earrings and stretch bracelets in about 30 seconds!" Tell me about it!

So I suggested a simple style of bead weaving using 3-4 colors of seed beads for necklaces, anklets and bracelets as you can see in this past post about a bead weaving party. I hope it was somehow useful.

These fantastic volunteers constantly hustle to get help for their crafters be they beginners or skilled artisans. Sharon wrote about the difficulties getting their accomplished weavers from Burma, Bhutan and Sudan set up mainly because they can't get the right fiber. She said, " The weavers don't have the English words to tell us what we should be asking for."

There in that last sentence, she summed up the challenges facing so many refugees. Driven out from their countries because of war and persecution - some putting behind terrible experiences - they must make new lives for themselves in countries like the US, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

They must learn new languages, new customs and cope with new environments. Not easy when you are 53 like Haiffa Ali from Iraq, to start again with nothing. Haiffa reminds us refugees are not just statistics we read about in the papers - they are real people with the same wish as you and I - to have a chance to live and raise their families in a safe environment.

Her story, Eight Dollars, is a moving one. The eight dollars referred to her first ever jewelry sale and it made her cry. She framed the notes because they marked her first step towards self sufficiency.  She went on to teach others to make jewelry and became an advocate for the group. An angry, frightened refugee blossomed into an inspiring woman all because strangers reached out to help her make a new life far from home.

She was killed late last year in a Baghdad bombing after she sneaked back into Iraq to visit her dead father's grave. Going home is usually not an option for refugees but tragically in her case, she did go home for good.

I meant to write about this wonderful craft initiative earlier as they so deserve support. Better late than never. The goal of the initiative is a self-sustaining craft coop. Until then, they need donations - 100% of cash donations go to their cause. If you have surplus supplies, send them their way. Check out their blog/website too, called A Little Something for more information.
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
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