Re:new Artisans are refugee women who have survived war, persecution, or political conflict and resettled in the United States. Each product is crafted in our Studio by these remarkable women.

Within our Artisan Development Programs, Re:new currently offers free training to 5 refugee women and provides flexible employment to 10 refugee women from countries including Somalia, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Burma (Myanmar), Iraq, Sierra Leone, and The Kingdom of Bhutan. Since our founding in 2009, Re:new has served over 140 refugee women from all over the world.

 

  Farida, The Brave.

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. After facing discrimination in their new location, Farida and her husband bravely ventured to discover a safe place for the family in Russia. They found what they thought was a safe community, and invited the rest of the family to join them. Never accepting a personal description of bravery, for Farida this was simply “what had to be done.” Painful memories prevent Farida from discussing her experiences in Russia. Despite her difficult journey, Farida is known for her courage, sweet spirit, and quick wit. She joined the Re:new family in 2012 (along with her sister, Gyulnara), and is the oldest Artisan on the team.
Despite suffering from multiple physical ailments--the result of a botched lower-back surgery that was supposed to ease her chronic pain--Farida often needs to take breaks to stand, stretch, and walk, but her commitment to the Re:new team never wavers. “I believe in Re:new and the difference that it’s making,” she said. “For me, these women are my second family” Today, Farida and her husband are both U.S. citizens and have a growing family of two children and five grandchildren, who are the light of her life. She is a doting grandmother brimming with pride over her grandchildren’s characteristics and achievements. Farida finds joy in the little things of life, such as dancing with the other Artisans during breaks in their work, laughing with her husband, or spending time with her grandchildren.

 

 Gyulnara, The Fighter.

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 a neighboring country but faced harassment and persecution upon their arrival. Gyulnara’s sister, Farida, located a safe place for the family to reunite in Russia, and Gyulnara moved with her husband and children. Contrary to their hopes, life in Russia was anything but easy. Like many of the Turkish families that fled, Gyulnara and her family were denied official paperwork, making it difficult to find work, apply for basic housing, and meet their daily needs. The Russian government terrorized the population, stopping people to ask for their papers and abruptly kidnapping civilians. “It was very common for people to just disappear,” Gyulnara explained, “everything about life was uncertain in Russia.”
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. Because of her “take charge” attitude and dynamic personality, Gyulnara has made a life for her family that others could not. However, her determination helps her adapt to challenges in America. After recently losing her father to poor health, Gyulnara uses her training as a midwife and nurse to care for her aging mother. Her husband also faces health issues that prevent him from maintaining long-term employment.
Gyulnara’s grit and willpower are contagious to the other women on the Artisan team. While she struggles with the inability to pursue the profession she formerly held in Russia, she’s passionate about her work at Re:new. Gyulnara is known for her creative design talents and developing efficiencies in our systems. She is an Advanced Artisan and one of Re:new’s most gifted seamstresses. She takes great pride and care in the quality of her work and goes to great lengths to see Re:new succeed. Gyulnara also takes great pride in her family, with two grown children and four grandchildren who live close by.

 

  Kamila, The Leader.

Kamila barely remembers her childhood in the Republic of Georgia. But she clearly recalls life in Russia after her family fled there to avoid persecution for their Turkish background and Muslim religion. Kamila and her family were denied access to paperwork and survived on subsistence farming. They constantly worried about their safety, wondering who would be the next one to be displaced by the Russian government. Kamila and her family were resettled along the East Coast before eventually moving to the Midwest. With some of her education delayed, Kamila started high school in America at the age of 18. According to Kamila, the transition originally brought about anxiety, “Understanding and adjusting to American culture was hard at first, like being much older than other students in my class” she said. Nearly a decade after starting high school in the United States, Kamila has achieved what some consider to be the “American Dream.” She is married to her high school sweetheart, has three children (under the ages of six), and her husband owns his own transportation company.
Even though she is undoubtedly the most Americanized of all the Artisans, Kamila maintains a strong commitment to her culture, heritage, and language. She is intentional about ensuring that her children understand and value their Turkish background. By teaching them Arabic, Turkish, and Russian languages and introducing them to many aspects of their past culture, Kamila instills pride in their family’s history. Although Kamila is young, she’s a natural leader and carries herself as someone who is far more mature than her Millennial age. Her tenaciousness was molded from years of struggle while living in Russia. In the long term, these qualities have transformed themselves into a sort of fearlessness rivaled by few.