Today, June 20th, is World Refugee Day. This day is an opportunity to recognize all of the courageous people around the world who have fled from their homes to find safety and create a better life for their families. The number of displaced people has reached 60 million globally.
At my fair trade shop, The Little Market, two of our artisan partners, GAIA and Prosperity Candle, have made it their mission to improve the lives of women refugees in the U.S. by providing employment opportunities, job training, and important resources. At The Little Market, we are able to support these artisans through the purchase of their fair trade products.
Below you can read about two of the women artisans we work with at The Little Market who are refugees. Their courage and perseverance are beyond inspiring…
Htoo (on left) at Prosperity Candle
Htoo | Prosperity Candle
Htoo is one of the women working with Prosperity Candle, the artisan group who makes our candle collection at The Little Market. Based in Western Massachusetts, Prosperity Candle is a social enterprise based in the U.S. that invests in women entrepreneurs to help end poverty. Every candle purchased helps provide a living wage for the women artisans who are working to build a brighter future for themselves and their families. Htoo last saw her native Burma (Myanmar) when she was fleeing on foot through the jungle. She was four years old. Htoo and her family were forced out of their home by soldiers—forever leaving behind the life they knew and loved. After 13 years in a refugee camp in Thailand, Htoo became eligible to relocate to the U.S. to start a new life. At age 20, Htoo joined Prosperity Candle as an apprentice candle maker and earned her first paycheck. Now with her own resources, Htoo has learned valuable job skills and is completing her high school education—the first step toward her dream of becoming a chef.
Bothina (on left) at GAIA
Bothina | GAIA
In 2013, Bothina, along with her husband and two children, escaped war-torn Syria. After two years of suffering with losing loved ones to violence, they decided to leave their home in a day. After traveling for days they reached neighboring Jordan. Bothina and her family eventually found asylum in Jordan, yet unfortunately could not find work. They were granted refugee status and finally resettled in the U.S in December of 2015. Now in Dallas, Bothina and her mother-in-law have begun to re-establish their lives with the help of GAIA Empowered Women, one of The Little Market’s newest artisan partners. GAIA’s beautiful products, including bags and pillows, are handmade by resettled refugee women in Dallas, Texas. They use vintage, sustainable, and artisan-made materials. The women are provided with the opportunity to work from home and receive a living wage while continuing training and development.
In addition to supporting refugees through our online shop, The Little Market has also had the opportunity to be a part of the Annenberg Space for Photography’s powerful exhibit REFUGEE. During the exhibit, we’re hosting a pop-up shop in their gift store, and earlier this month my good friend and co-founder of The Little Market, Hannah Skvarla, and I participated in a panel discussion. We were honored to be joined by Elizabeth Calvin of Human Rights Watch and Lindsay Guetschow of The Malala Fund. The exhibit and our pop-up shop run through the end of August, so if you’re in the LA-area this summer, I encourage you to visit and learn more about what it means to be a refugee.
To learn more about our artisan partners and shop all of their beautiful, handmade goods, be sure to visit The Little Market.