Powerful words spoken by an impressive woman, echoing our sentiments exactly. Which is why June 20th marks an event close to our hearts: World Refugee Day. It is a day each year to honor the courage, strength and the determination of those who are forced to flee from persecution, conflict and natural disaster.
They leave behind their homes and everything familiar to build new lives elsewhere, somewhere safe, a place to a brighter future. Every year on this day we take a moment to appreciate the women artisans at Prosperity Candle who were once refugees simply because they belonged to the wrong ethnic group. It’s impossible to comprehend all they have gone through, and yet here they are each day – resilient, strong, unceasingly determined.
We ask you to show your support for these brave women, men and children. Speak up on their behalf and encourage others to do the same. And take a moment to donate to World Refugee Day. You’ll be joining many others with open hearts who are helping refugees across the globe.
“Refugees are people like anyone else, like you and me,” says Ban Ki Moon, the United National Secretary General. “They led ordinary lives before becoming displaced, and their biggest dream is to be able to live normally again. On this World Refugee Day, let us recall our common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity, and open our hearts to refugees everywhere.”
Here at Prosperity Candle, our mission from day one has been to work where few businesses are willing or able to go. Places where war and natural disaster have devastated communities, turned families into refugees, and left few opportunities to escape poverty.
In 2009 we launched a pilot project in Iraq at a time when bombs and violence were a near daily occurrence in Baghdad. It wasn’t easy, and there have been many setbacks. But we are proud to have demonstrated, against the odds and despite the naysayers, that our social enterprise model works. It enables women in some of the most difficult circumstances to earn a living wage and gain independence with dignity. This in turn promotes peace and shared prosperity for all.
Connecting people and sharing inspiring stories is deeply important to us, which is why every candle includes a card about the woman who made it. We love the idea of reaching across divides with a candle, from her hands to yours.
Prosperity Candle started with an international focus, but at the urging of a supporter soon began working with refugees recently relocated to the United States through U.N. and federal programs. We quickly learned that offering a helping hand to local women fromregions of conflict is as powerful as working in a place like Baghdad. So our impact is now both global and local – “glocal.”
Take Moo Kho Paw, for example. Five years ago she and her family had just settled in western Massachusetts when we were introduced. They were forced to flee their native Burma, leaving behind all possessions, and lived for years a refugee camp before the opportunity arose to relocate to the United States. Moo Kho started as an apprentice candle-maker, but quickly advanced to supervisor and today is Prosperity Candle’s production manager responsible for all candle-making and training other women refugees to make unique gifts.
Moo Kho is one example of how Prosperity Candle strives to support a woman’s journey from refugee to artisan – and a brighter future for herself and her family.
What amazes us is that every artisan at Prosperity Candle, no matter what circumstances brought her here, arrives with a smile on her face each morning. Together, they set a pace for the candles to be made, working steadily throughout the day, taking breaks as needed.
Our studio is always a wonderful (and sometimes bizarre!) blend of fragrances… woodsy sandalwood one moment, fresh ocean breeze the next. And since we make every candle individually to order, the tables are a constantly changing mosaic of color and design.
We feel fortunate to work side-by-side with these women. They’ve shown us how extreme hardship can lead to a depth of strength and compassion that is beyond words.
It is humbling.
Please join us in standing #WithRefugees, and pledge your support now. And the next time you are thinking of a gift to give, consider a candle handmade by a woman refugee.
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