About The Community Cloth
The Community Cloth is a microenterprise initiative empowering refugee women in Houston. It targets economic, educational and social goals through the provision of seed grants, training, and peer support, and by expanding market opportunities for refugee women artisans. The Cloth supports women who want to create and sell handmade, indigenous arts and crafts such as woven bags, knitted scarves, household items and more. 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. 100% of the profits go directly to the artisans. The Cloth is a program of Our Global Village, a 501c3 nonprofit organization based in Houston, TX.
What is a Refugee? About Refugees in Houston
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. 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.
How many women are involved? Where are they from?
Since we launched the program December 2009, we have had 30-35 refugee women engaged at any one time. All of the women involved to date are mothers; some are widows or are the only working member of their families. The women we work with are from:
How did we get started?
Co-Founders were volunteers within the refugee community through teaching English classes, providing transportation – the women came to us wanting help to sell their handmade items. They have all these talents and skills (they can weave, knit, crochet) so they wanted an outlet to sell their products. The women were a part of the planning process from the very beginning, they are “the boss”. We just helped create the program. The artisans decide what items they want to make, how much, and what to price each item.
4 Components of The Community Cloth program
1. Seed Grants
- Each participating artisan has access to seed grants, which she can use to purchase materials and supplies to begin producing her item. Artisans contribute back into the program through a process of “microbartering” whereby she gives the program completed products worth the amount of seed grants she takes out.
2. Artisan Training
- The Cloth hosts artisan training sessions to expose the artisans to the American enterprise system, teaching them basic small business skills as well as hosting product development trainings for those interested in expanding her product line.
3. Peer Support
- The Cloth encourages rebuilding of those communities by inviting each artisan to join a peer support group — informal gatherings of artisans (who usually reside within the same or nearby apartment complexes) who get together to knit, weave, talk, and support each other in a variety of ways. They often build strong relationships and consider each other as friends or sisters.
4. Market Opportunities
- The Community Cloth helps our artisans expand market opportunities through scheduling private in-home sales events, developing vendor opportunities with our local retail partners, and organizing and promoting public sales events.
How much have the women sold?
The women have sold nearly $100,000 (and counting) since inception! All profits from sales go directly to the artisan to support her family. This extra income has allowed them to help pay rent and avoid evictions, buy extra groceries, pay utility bills and meet their children’s needs.
Where can you find us?
- You can currently find our handmade products at Houston Museum of Natural Science, Kuhl-Linscomb, Methodist Hospital Gift Shop.
- We also participate in local farmers markets, community festivals, community conferences, houses of worship, Cloth Parties, fashion shows and partnership events with local nonprofits and businesses such as Ten Thousand Villages, The Downtown Club and Neighborhood Centers.
How can I help?
In-Kind donations such as yarn, fabric and other supplies.
Financial gifts to support the program are always appreciated.
What the Program Means to the Participants
For many of our participants, this is the first time they have been recognized for their work and handicraft. Some who engaged in work in the refugee camps were paid less than $1 a day. For some of the families, the participant is the sole worker at this time. The women have been able to help their families pay bills, avoid eviction and buy additional groceries. But almost as important as the educational and economic benefits of the program, many find the peer support to be invaluable, expressing to us that they are “happy to have
How can I learn more?