Made in Houston: The Community Cloth

HOUSTON -- Every year the United States takes in more refugees than any other country, and Houston is the busiest resettlement city for them.

There is a local project called the Community Cloth that helps women get back on their feet after fleeing from war and political persecution.

Several days a week a group of women in Houston come together and knit. With every loop and every stitch they're making a better life for their families. All of the women are refugees; take Muna Tamang for example, originally from Bhutan she spent twenty years in a Nepalese refugee camp.

"A misery of a life. A bad life. So sorrowful life," Tamang reflected.

For two decades Tamang's home was a small hut with no electricity. About 60,000 other refuges also lived in the camp. In 2009, she and her family were finally able to get refugee status and move to the United States.

"But here in the United States if we have talent, if we have power strength we can do," Tamang said. "If there is a will there is a way to succeed."

The knitting women come from different, difficult backgrounds, but are united in Texas by a project called The Community Cloth, part of a non-profit called Our Global Village.

"The community cloth is a micro enterprise to empower refugee women that live right here in Houston," explained Roxanne Paiva, the project's executive director.

The women are artisans; they knit, sew and make jewelry. The organization allows them opportunities to sell their goods to the public and keep the profits. Roughly twenty-five women currently participate in the program, most of them mothers and a few widows.

"We've sold over $140,000 worth of products since inception and we know that all those proceeds go back to each artisan."

"It helps to pay the bills like mobile bill, electric bill, sometimes the rent," said Tamang.

For some of these families money earned through the Community Cloth is the only income coming in and for others it's supplemental income.

However, the support they receive through the project does not only come in a monetary form.

"It's not just about earning money," said Paiva, "It's confidence, it's friendship, it's learning new skills."

"What I know I can share with my friends and what my friends know they can share with me. So we learn so many things," explained Tamang.

"They endured war, persecution … endured a long journey to foreign lands like Houston, Texas," Paiva said.

The goods these women offer are as unique as their pasts and as colorful as their futures.

"Nothing is impossible in this beautiful world," added Tamang.

For further information about these women or products visit: http://www.thecommunitycloth.org/.


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