Re:new Artisans are refugee women who have survived war, persecution, or political conflict and have resettled in the United States. Re:new provides free training and flexible employment to refugee women from different countries. Since our founding in 2009, Re:new has served over 140 refugee women from all over the world.
Fatma has been at Re:new since 2009 when she enrolled in Re:new's first sewing class. She is known for her quality sewing skills, gentle character and caring nature. In addition to developing new handbag concepts for the store, Fatma is the cutting manager and a mentor to the team of Artisans.
Josefina is originally from Venezuela, where her happiest memories were of road trips across the country with her husband and two daughters, visiting beaches and the many national parks that the country has to offer. However, in 1998 politics in Venezuela took a drastic turn for the worst. These days, it is a country plagued by a severe dictatorship which cripples its economy and the security of its citizens. Josefina was driven out of her home by fear of scarcity, political persecution and crime.
Faced with insurmountable odds, Josefina came to the United States in the hope of finding a safe harbor for herself and her daughters. Josefina has been with Re:new for over a year and has consistently demonstrated reliability, a positive attitude, and an incredible work ethic. In addition to working in the studio as an artisan, she also helps with the new student and ESL classes on Friday mornings. Her joy is contagious and daily touches everyone she comes in contact with. "I have made great friends at Re:new, where I’ve been welcomed with patience, warmth and understanding. I have found a sense of purpose, and have developed new skills that make me feel empowered and heard”
Level III Artisans
The mid-1990s were rife with political instability in Gyulnara’s home country of Uzbekistan. As a minority within the region, Gyulnara's family faced persecution for both their Turkish ethnicity and Muslim religion. They fled Uzbekistan in search of a safe life in Russia but faced harassment and persecution upon their arrival. Everything about life in Russia was difficult and uncertain. But, Gyulnara is resourceful and a fighter. Through persistence and ingenuity, Gyulnara became a midwife serving in the anesthesiology department in a hospital.
She eventually made her way to the United States with her family and became part of the Re:new family in 2012. Her strong will and determination have helped her adapt to challenges in America. Gyulnara uses her training as a midwife and nurse to care for others.
Gyulnara’s true grit and willpower are contagious. She’s passionate about her work at Re:new and also takes great pride in her family, with two grown children and four grandchildren who live close by.
Farida grew up in Uzbekistan as a Muslim Turk enjoying a meaningful career as a schoolteacher. In the blink of an eye, ethnic and religious persecution swept through their close-knit community, forcing them to flee to a neighboring country. Farida and her husband bravely ventured to discover a safe place for the family in Russia. They found a safe community and invited the rest of the family to join them.
Despite her difficult journey, Farida is known for her courage, sweet spirit, and quick wit. She joined the Re:new family in 2012 and is the oldest Artisan on the team.
“I believe in Re:new and the difference that it’s making,” she said. “For me, these women are my second family”.
Ngwa is originally from Myanmar. For several years, she and her family were refugees in Malaysia. She has lived in the U.S. since 2014 and has three children. She loves spending time with her family and church community.
She came to Re:new after her daughter’s music teacher told her about opportunities for refugee women to learn to sew. She began coming to sewing classes on Friday mornings and quickly learned the art of sewing. Ngwa said, “I love Re:new because I am very happy working here. Before I did not know how to sew but now I do. I am very happy.” We are so happy, too. Ngwa is a wonderful addition to the Re:new family and the Artisan team.
Level II Artisans
Shatha grew up in a close, loving family in Iraq. She attended college and worked as a secretary before getting married and starting a family. Shatha’s husband owned a supermarket in Bhagdad. Sadly, it was the target of several attacks. Shatha and her husband were targeted for welcoming American soldiers to shop in their store. One night a bomb went off and completely destroyed everything.
Despite unthinkable tragedies and setbacks, Shatha and her family persevered. They traveled to Jordan and submitted paperwork to become refugees and be resettled in another country. After waiting a short time, the family arrived in the United States.
Shatha is loving, caring and kind. A talented Artisan, she enjoys working at Re:new and appreciates the flexibility so she can care for her family.
Level I Artisans
Cicilia grew up in the mountains of Myanmar (Burma), where she enjoyed working with her family on their farm. But their lives were drastically changed when they heard that government forces were raiding villages for forced labor. Knowing they were coming soon, her family quickly fled, unable to take anything with them. They walked for a week and finally arrived in Malaysia, where they lived as refugees. It was in Malaysia that Cici met her husband.
In 2008, Cici and her husband came to the US. Since their arrival, they have had a son who is now 6 years old. Cici has worked previously at a food packaging plant, but the constantly changing, long hours made it difficult to care for her son. She has also volunteered in the ESL childcare classes at College Church, so that she and her son could improve their English.
Cici is a hard worker and a joyful presence at Re:New and we are so grateful to have her as part of the team! When asked about Re:new, Cici says, "I had never sewed before, and at first it was very hard. But now I like sewing! I like working at Re:new because the hours allow me to care for my son".
Rajaa first came to Renew in January, 2018. She rejoined our team in February 2019 after being away for several months.
Rajaa grew up in Iraq, but she and her family moved to Lebanon when she was seventeen. While in Lebanon, she met her husband who was in search of a better life and a new job. He set his sights on resettling in the U.S.
In 2010, they moved to the United States and are now busy raising their two daughters. Rajaa enjoys spending time with her family and loves sewing, cooking, and learning English. We are grateful for the joy and talent she brings Re:new family and Artisan team.
Yatm grew up in the country of Eritrea, a northeast African country that was, for a time, controlled by Ethiopia. In 1991, Eritrea gained its independence and Yatm’s family was forced to leave because her father was originally from Ethiopia. In her teens at the time, Yatm and her sister soon realized that their family needed an additional source of income and went to Saudi Arabia where they found jobs cleaning houses. After working for several years in Saudi Arabia, she came to the United States where she married a friend of her family who came over on a refugee visa.
Today they are raising 4 sons who love to play sports, especially basketball. Yatm keeps very busy - she works the night shift at a local factory, sews at Re:new during the day, and cares for her growing sons. Three years ago, Yatm received her U.S. citizenship! When asked what she loves most about Re:new, Yatm says she enjoys sewing and the community of wonderful women working around her. She said that at the beginning, she didn’t know how to sew but learned quickly in the new sewer’s class. Now she looks forward to learning more about sewing every day! We are so grateful to have Yatm as part of our Re:new team. Her hard-working and joyful attitude are a gift to us all!