Interview with artisan candle-maker Nyota. Gifts and candles that give back to women refugees.

Artisan Spotlight: Meet Nyota

Eight months ago we met Nyota and learned of her dreams of studying English and thriving beside her family. Every week in the studio, we see her wonderful resilience and strength as she pursues her goals. We are happy she is here!

Nyota was born in a small village in the Congo, and her family was forced to flee their home when she was only 6 years old to escape escalating violence. Growing up in a refugee camp in Burundi, Nyota and her loved ones were eventually offered the opportunity to resettle to the United States. She received her very first paycheck in October 2018, helping to support her family through candle-making.

Today Nyota shares a home with her mother, two brothers and three sisters. Every candle she gift wraps and labels shines a light on how far she has come and the new beginnings she is paving with her loved ones. Here is a glimpse into her life!

1. Nyota, can you tell us a little about your family?

I live with my whole family in Northampton, MA. I am the middle child, the fourth oldest in my family. I was born in a small village called Ovira in the Congo. I lived in Ovira for 7 years with my mom, two brothers and three sisters. I grew up in a refugee camp in Burundi. 

2. Are there any happy memories you want to share from when you were a kid?

I liked studying English and biology and I really like to read stories in French. When I wasn’t in school, I had neighborhood children to play with. We played a game called horoh. It was a game where we would throw a ball in the streets with three or four kids at a time. We made our own ball out of plastic bags that we would collect from the garbage. 

3. Can you describe what relocating to the United States was like?

I moved to the United States in July with my family in the plane. It was my first plane ride ever. When we arrived in Massachusetts, we didn’t have a house so we stayed in a hotel for one week. Catholic Charities found a house for us to rent. My brother was the first in our family to get a job with a carpenter. We all enrolled in English classes and eventually, after three months, I got a job with Prosperity Candle.

4. Which parts of candle-making do you enjoy most? 

Each day can be a little different. Some days I start cleaning all of the candles that have been poured and cured, some days we need to label candles that have already been cleaned. My favorite part is labeling. This is my first job in the U.S. I like working with other people and learning from them.

5. Do you have a favorite scent?

My favorite fragrance is vanilla!

6. What kind of things do you do when you’re not at work?

I like to cook food from my home, like rice and fish. I tried pizza. It was very nice! I also tried ice cream and I really like vanilla.

7. Do you have a favorite TV show or movie you like to watch?

I watch anything, like American movies like Jack the Giant Slayer or dramas. I like watching YouTube shows in Swahili and I like listening to my country’s music. They are called Roomba. 

8. Do you have any dreams or hopes? 

My dream is to learn English. I want to be a nurse and help older people. I have spent a lot of time at home taking care of neighbors. 

Artisan candle-maker Nyota and her loved ones after resettling to the U.S. from a refugee camp in Burundi

If you enjoyed hearing Nyota's story send her a warm message below welcoming her and her loved ones to the United States, or share her story with a friend!

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