BOISE, Idaho — Leaving your homeland often means leaving your livelihood behind as well.
Since 2009, Boise non-profit Artisans for Hope has successfully taught hundreds of refugees how to learn and earn using textiles.
"I mean, whether it be $50 or $500 they’re just so excited," said Executive Director Lillian Kurek. "We give them a percentage of everything we sell. When I give them the checks at the beginning of every month, the thank yous are off the charts."
Kurek had a clothing store in downtown Boise for 21 years.
Using her retail background, Kurek and dozens of her volunteers take students from all levels to teach them marketable skills.
"[We help] refugees get integrated into Boise society through textiles, through sewing and knitting, crocheting," she said.
Currently, about 40 refugees are enrolled in the program.
"[The program] is either 6 to 8 weeks depending on the student and what their sewing and knitting skills are," she said.
Every refugee is a survivor with a story to tell.
"And their stories are really horrific," said Kurek.
Horror stories, now memories, for refugees like Maria Shefa.
"I am from Afghanistan," Shefa said.
Shefa has been sewing with the program for nearly a decade.
Now, the eyes of the world turn towards her homeland. Dramatic scenes from Afghanistan are a poignant reminder that there are thousands of others desperate to build a life free from fear.
[Refugees] come here because we are a safe haven," said Kurek.
Along with training in sewing, knitting, and jewelry making, 'Artisans for Hope' also helps people from a variety of backgrounds forge friendships and create lasting community connections.
Even during the 2020 lockdown, they moved forward.
"We gave [students] a sewing machine and we gave them all of the notions that they need to take home," said Kurek.
So whether you buy their products in person or online, you're helping the fabric of our community grow - pieced together - one person at a time.