Who are they?
Around the world people are forced to flee their homes due to war, political violence, exclusion, and the competition for scarce resources in troubled states. Those who have sought refuge in another country are refugees, a status which entitles them to certain rights under international law. Houston is one of the busiest resettlement cities in the US, and the thousands of refugees welcomed to our city each year face a number of barriers. Many arrive with little to no English proficiency and minimal education. Some lived upwards of 18-20 years in refugee camps, with no legal right to employment, and often faced dismal health and housing options.
The Community Cloth currently serves refugee women artisans from Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Sudan, The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.
Get to know a few of the artisans participating in The Community Cloth!
Nar joked with a few friends as they feasted on Chinese take-out in a two-room apartment at Sun Blossom Mountain, a cheerful if somewhat sketchy apartment complex that is home to hundreds of international refugees resettled in Southwest Houston. In chairs by the wall, Nar’s Bhutanese colleagues knitted while chatting, and, next door, women engaged in the traditional art of Karenni weaving.
When The Community Cloth came along, Nar and several friends from a nearby apartment complex were already knitting together to share ideas, tradition, and friendship. For these Bhutanese refugees, The Community Cloth is a natural fit. Most women from their culture learn to knit as young girls. Nar started at the age of 13, and learned to crochet at 17. With a working husband and three school-age sons, Nar has a busy schedule, but her boys pitch in wherever they can. “My husband helps out around the home,” says Nar, “and my oldest son helps with the cooking and cleaning, and looks after his younger brothers.” [Read more...]
Devi was born in Bhutan, a small not-well-known South Asian country. She is 31 years old, has been married nine years and has an adorable six-year old daughter, appropriately named Angel. Devi’s middle name, “Maya”, means “Love” in Nepali, her native language. She has an innocent, warm face and beautiful smile that matches her name – but life has not been easy for this young woman.
In 1990, the Royal Government of Bhutan began an initiative to create a unified society. This new society restricted freedom of religion, required everyone to dress in traditional garb worn in Northern Bhutan, and removed the Nepali language from schools, along with a variety of other measures. In response, the Bhutanese Nepali ethnic minority in Southern Bhutan held public protests, which were answered with violence, rape, groundless arrests, and forced migration. By the end of 1992, more than 120,000 Bhutanese Nepali were forced to flee to refugee camps in Nepal.
Devi’s family was one of the many who fled to a refugee camp in Nepal in 1992, living there until 2008. She, her parents, two sisters and one brother experienced a difficult life in the camp, where they all lived in a small bamboo hut no larger than 15 x 15 feet. The hut had a thatched roof, walls patched with cardboard and mud floors. [Read more...]