Wednesday, June 20th is World Refugee Day - a cause near and dear to our hearts. It is a day to reflect on the strength, courage and perseverance of refugees.
A refugee is someone forced to leave her home. Not by choice, but to survive. Around the world, women, men and children are fleeing persecution, conflict and natural disaster. They leave behind everything they know and cherish to face the dangers and hardships of an uncertain future, often in makeshift refugee camps. A very few are offered the chance to resettle in a welcoming country after a long and careful screening process.
As they begin life anew with little more than what they can carry, refugees face many challenges, from learning a new language to navigating the complexities of a foreign culture. Imagine what it would be like to figure out how things work here in the United States... healthcare, insurance, bus schedules. Most people born here are perplexed.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is finding gainful employment to support themselves and their families. Americans are incredibly compassionate and generous, but at some point support fades and it's up to each refugee to find work, pay taxes, and become a contributing member of our society. One way you can help is by purchasing refugee-made products.
There are many enterprises that help refugees by providing training, dignified employment opportunities, and community support as they rebuild their lives. We especially love handmade products because they are a tangible celebration of a refugee's skills and creativity. With that in mind, we have put together this list of wonderful handmade goods, each a great way to use your purchasing power for good and help refugees build a brighter future.
1. GAIA Empowered Women
GAIA offers an impressive collection of handcrafted earrings, women’s apparel, bags, accessories and kid’s items handmade by women refugees resettled in Dallas, Texas. Each artisan item creates dignified work opportunities for refugees and reflects the skillful crafting and creativity of its maker. We are inspired by GAIA’s newly released line of refugee made clothing. Their beautifully designed and flowy fitting summer tops for women are perfect fashion pieces for summer!
2. Thread Spun
These beautifully-patterned surfboard bags and clutches by Thread Spun Co. are handwoven by refugee women resettled in San Diego, California - and are made entirely from eco-friendly and fair trade materials. Inspired by traditional textile techniques from their homelands, each surfboard bag empowers vulnerable artisan communities in Mali, Burma, and Guatemala, and helps resettled refugees in the U.S. build a brighter future. Check out their unique Burma 8’ surfboard bag, handmade by Burmese refugees with vibrant colors and out of durable canvas base.
As a social enterprise based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, RefuTea helps local refugees connect with the community through gainful employment. Their flavorful blends of loose leaf teas are ethically sourced, packed and served by refugees who are resettled and rebuilding their lives in the U.S. Every quarter, RefuTea donates ten percent of their sales to local refugee organizations. If you’re looking for a delicious iced tea for the summertime, check out their Amber Peach or Fujian Rose Green tea blends, which are offered online and in their store.
4. Preemptive Love
These all-natural, elegant soaps and candles make beautiful refugee-made gifts for anyone wanting to make a positive impact in the world. Hand-milled by women refugees in Iraq and Syria, each bar of soap helps rebuild broken communities and create sustainable jobs for people living in regions plagued by conflict. Preemptive Love Coalition also directly supports refugee families in need with water, food and medical care. We love their pure Chamomile Sisterhood Soap, made with locally-sourced wild chamomile and 100% saponified olive oil.
5. Knotty Tie Co.
These fun and sophisticated neckties reflect the detail and skill of their refugee artisan makers. Handmade by resettled refugees living in Denver, Colorado, Knotty Tie Co removes the barriers to employment and offers fair, living wages to refugees. Their environmentally-friendly ties help them and their families become economically empowered and self-sufficient. If you’re looking for a high quality, ethically-made tie for your next wedding or event, definitely check out Knotty Tie Co.
This whimsical collection of spring and summer scarves and jewelry empowers refugees girls and families to reach economic independence and begin anew. RefuSHE artisans gain business training, entrepreneurial skills, and the opportunity for creative expression while earning a sustainable income. 100% of RefuSHE revenue is reinvested into RefuSHE programs to support refugees worldwide.
7. Vickery Trading Co.
Vickery Trading Co. is a children’s clothing company that renews hope for refugee women who have resettled in Dallas, Texas. Their vibrant collection of kid’s clothes is full of joy and hope, ranging from beautiful summer dress designs great for little girls to comfy kids pajama pants. Every purchase at Vickery Trading Co. empowers resettled refugee women in Dallas with fair wages, sewing training, and educational and community support.
8. Beautiful Day
Handcrafted by refugees resettled in Providence, Rhode Island, Beautiful Day is one of the most delicious, quality granolas out there. As a social enterprise, Beautiful Day offers resettled refugees in the U.S. much-needed job training, dignified employment, and a supportive artisan community. You don’t have to live in Rhode Island to experience the amazing flavors and all-natural ingredients in their granola, either!
9. Mend Creative
These decorative pillow covers make beautiful accent pieces and support resettled refugee women and men living in Denver, Colorado overcome the cycle of poverty and create a brighter future. 100% of Mend Creative’s profit is reinvested into Hope in Our City, a local organization that supports refugee communities. We love the clear care, creativity, and quality in their hand-sewn floral Bosaso Watercolor pillow.
10. Prosperity Candle
Yes, that’s us! All of our candles are handpoured here in our studio by women artisans resettled from refugee camps, now earning a living wage in Western Massachusetts. Our line of Burmese Candles is inspired by the amazing qualities they carried with them throughout a difficult journey to share with their new home and community.
As consumers, every purchase we make has the power to make a positive impact on people and the planet. We know this list is only the beginning... there are so many more social enterprises out there making a difference for refugees and their families - kid's fashion company Forai, home decor and accessory brand SEP, and minimalist jewelry enterprise Melt Goods - to name a few.
Which refugee-made goods or organizations inspire you to give back? Let us know in the comments below!
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