Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Help Refugee Women this Christmas

Okay folks, I'm not much for product endorsements, but I'm making an exception to tell you all about an amazing work being done in Houston: the Community Cloth. The refugee women of Community Cloth make beautiful artisan woven goods (I can tell you from experience, they are gorgeous), and since 2009 they have been selling them at markets, in people's homes, in boutiques--basically anywhere they can all over Houston.  I'm excited to report that Community Cloth has just launched an online store to sell them all over the country.

Photo by David Brown of dabfoto 2012

The Community Cloth is part of Our Global Village's outreach efforts, and it is specifically designed to empower refugee women relocated to Houston from Bhutan, Burma, and Iraq. Community Cloth's mission is to empower these women to improve their economic and social situation through education and enterprise.  The organization has this to say about itself:
The Community Cloth is a refugee-led, refugee-owned microenterprise empowering refugee women in Houston. It runs under the parent 501(c)3 organization, Our Global Village whose mission is to empower grassroots leaders around the world to improve their communities by providing knowledge, resources and support.
The project grew out of several refugee communities’ informal experiences of selling handmade arts and crafts, such as woven bags, knitted scarves, embroidered linens, baby clothing, rugs and more. Through a series of community meetings held over several months in late 2009, members of the refugee communities voiced a need for expanded and accessible opportunities for refugee women to produce and sell their wares, express their culture and heritage through their crafts, and learn new skills that will assist them in transitioning to life in the US. The biggest request was for seed capital for the women to purchase materials in order to produce their wares and build up their inventory to be sold. The group discussed the idea of offering funding, coupled with training and support, and the Community Cloth was born.
Photo by Jane Foster Photography
We target economic, educational and social goals through the provision of seed grants, training, and peer support, and by expanding market opportunities for refugee women artisans. Through producing and selling their wares, the women have an opportunity to express their culture and heritage, learn new skills that will assist them in transitioning to life in the US, and obtain much-needed supplemental income.
All profits from sales go directly to the artisans. The Community Cloth is about a new start. Purchases of Cloth products help refugee women provide for the basic needs of their families as they work to establish new lives in Houston.

I have been buying Community Cloth products for a couple of years now, because I think it is just amazing how entrepreneurial these women are, and also because it is incredible to see how they are taking this tiny bit of empowerment and using it to improve their entire community. And this year, I have the great pleasure of having founder Roxanna Paiva in my Leadership Houston class (awesome lady) to tell me about all the amazing things that are happening in the organization: like a NEW ONLINE STORE!

If you or someone you know (1) loves artisan woven goods; (2) loves empowering women; (3) loves making a difference; (4) appreciates an entrepreneurial spirit; and/or (5) just wants to feel good about the money you/they are spending this Christmas, please consider shopping Community Cloth.

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