First, let’s be clear. Refugees are here in the United States completely legally. They come here after being thoroughly screened by the United Nations. Upon arrival they are given social security numbers and work permits. They have access to financial stipends for a very limited amount of time before they are expected to be out on their own with a job supporting their families. Refugees are here at the invitation of our government and did not have a choice as to where they would be. They go where there is a place for them. I have worked cross culturally for thirty years. Twenty of those thirty years have been working with refugees in a variety of capacities. When I started, my naiveté regarding refugees was profound despite my past experience. I did not realize why most of them were refugees. I did not realize what most of them had left behind. I did not realize the trauma most of them had suffered. Mostly I did not realize how well educated and professional the majority of them are.
The first time I realized it was when the father of a young girl from church remarked on my dogs. He was an animal lover. He worked for a vet. I knew that. My perception was that most refugees were poor immigrant people. In the United States, he worked for a vet but he was a fully licensed educated veterinarian in his country before being forced to leave. Europe would require he repeat all of his education in order to practice as a vet there. That was too much time and money, not to mention the language barrier. He had a family to support. Since then I have met countless refugees who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, translators, geologists, etc. All of them forced into fields that can provide them with jobs but for which their higher education is not utilized. One very special friend of the family has a Master’s of Science in Geology and is working as a postman. He did menial odd jobs until he was able to make his way to this position.
I wish I could tell you that I am intuitive and smart enough to have come up with the idea of hiring refugees all on my own. That would not be true. The inspiration came from a radio interview I heard about the founder of Chobani Yogurt, Hamdi Ulukaya. He spoke of his own transition to the US and how grateful he was for those who helped him during that time. Then he decided he wanted to help others do the same so he decided to hire refugees. English, transportation, lack of specific skills etc were all quoted as roadblocks as he sought to hire refugees. He would not be deterred. He helped with the English, the transportation and the training. Look where Chobani is today!
I thought, “Wait a minute! I have worked with refugees for years. If he can do this and make it work why can’t I?” We are always trying to help refugees find jobs, gain skills or education etc. It is very difficult and frustrating. They usually end up with some menial labor that is not within their skill set. When Threads by Nomad began to form immediately Sis (Christen) and I wanted it to make a difference not just to those working for us, but to our American and global communities. We have seen artisans eeking out an existence as they work in the sand of the West African desert. We have seen talented educated men and women eeking out an existence here in our country because they were not educated here. Threads by Nomad could make a difference! So, why refugees? - They are here. If they thrive we thrive. - They have gifts, talents, and education that is being under utilized and in some instances are not in abundance here. - Providing satisfying work and creative outlets permits them to become a part of the fabric of the nation they now call home. - Investing in first generation refugees is to invest in their children who will become our leaders of tomorrow. - When they are a part of the fabric of their community, there is less animosity and less misunderstanding. - They are here. They are our neighbors. It is the golden rule at it’s foundation: Do unto others as you would have then do unto you. Threads by Nomad has hired two refugees. We have not required English proficiency and yes, that has provided unique challenges. But we are working through them! We hope to hire more refugees and train them for specific tasks/skills as we grow. Please, will you help us do that? We are not just under $1,000 short of our $20,000 goal. Help us make a difference even as we enjoy the beauty and art of our fashion.