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Amanda

Amanda Lahr

Editor

Daveb

Dave Baker

Filmmaker

Erica

Erica Baker

Photographer

David Johnson Profile

David Johnson

Photographer

Bray Profile

Brandon Bray

Filmmaker

Putting A Face With A Label

I ask you for a moment to tune out the negative news, to shut off the political debate and listen to a story—a refugee story, a human story. 

For decades, the United States has welcomed refugees. Indeed, America's founding fathers were refuge-seekers, and in 1886 a daring statement of welcome was engraved on the base of the iconic Statue of Liberty: 

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!​

Statue of Liberty

And for decades, organizations, communities and individuals have rallied together to support refugees as they dust themselves off and endeavor to rebuild their lives in a new land.

Refugees are moms, dads, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. Coming from all over the globe, they represent 60 different nationalities. Like you and like me, many of them enjoyed peaceful and productive lives until war ripped their families, homes, and communities apart. And they had to flee.

Every year, America welcomes approximately 70,000 refugees

And fleeing means fleeing—no time to pack, taking only what they can carry on their backs, usually paying exorbitant sums to be smuggled out of the country into tent-village refugee camps. Once assigned by UNHCR to a host country (a two-year vetting process for the U.S.), they arrive with very little—typically no more than a few precious items. 

Grateful for newfound freedom and safety, they still (and will always) carry the tremendous weight of heartbreak for their ravaged homeland and concern for those they love still there. 

Harrisonburg Shaymaa 6

Most refugees are educated professionals: Lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, tradesmen, journalists. When (if) they are resettled in America, their first challenge is to learn English—fast! Career opportunities depend on it, and the financial support they receive from resettlement agencies will dry up within just a few months. 

The challenges are innumerable and enormous, but the people are gracious, steadfast, and resilient.

Different Everything

In 2006, Shaymaa (with her husband and two children) fled Iraq and found refuge in nearby Syria. When the war in Syria began, however, they were forced to flee again. In 2013, they were given visas to America and resettled in Harrisonburg, VA.

"We just laughed. We jumped. It was amazing." This is how she describes the moment they learned they would be resettled in the United States. Not surprisingly though, the transition has brought new challenges. 

Bittersweet produced this story in collaboration with Shoulder to Shoulder, a non-profit that works to combat anti-Muslim sentiment in America. 

Daveb

Dave Baker

Filmmaker

Now we are in a different culture, different place, different everything.

Shaymaa

Back in Iraq, Shaymaa had earned her bachelor's degree in education and her husband was a practicing lawyer. Unfortunately, the American system didn't recognize their degrees or professional qualifications so they had to start over—completely. 

In fact, soon after resettlement, they were both offered jobs: Shaymaa housecleaning and her husband laboring in a meat factory. Her husband refused for her to become a housecleaner and so spent three years working in the meat factory so she could learn English first (before him) and become a teacher again.  

Today, Shaymaa is working as an assistant teacher (with plans to pursue a master's degree in education) and her husband is learning English with hopes of becoming a paralegal.

This is the Rebuilding

Before the war, Dr. Jawish was an ICU doctor in Syria. Life was relatively peaceful with his wife and son, friends and extended family. Until the hospital was bombed.


Bittersweet produced this film in collaboration with Shoulder to Shoulder, a non-profit working to combat anti-Muslim sentiment in America.

Daveb

Dave Baker

Filmmaker

Though the journey has not been easy, he describes himself as "one of the lucky ones." While fluent in English, his certifications do not convey to the U.S. so he has restarted medical school and the licensing process. His wife is now taking English classes and his son has started pre-K4.

This is the rebuilding. We are rebuilding our future in America.

Dr. Jawish

The Gift Guide

What follows is a collection of goods that support refugees as they resettle and begin again—products that help rebuild, heal, and restore. This guide is a celebration of courage and resilience and an invitation to become a part of a refugee's story.


Sisterhood Soap2

Chamomile Soap, $10

Sisterhood Soap

This soap does more than cleanse. It empowers. Each bar is hand-milled by refugees in Iraq, fleeing from ISIS. Sisterhood Soap helps vulnerable refugees grow their business, feed their families, and put their children back in school. Not through a handout, but through the work of their own hands. Every bar is free of the chemicals and dyes found in most commercial soap. 

Our favorite: Chamomile Soap
Bittersweet exclusive: Use 'BITTERSWEET2016' for 10% off your purchase

Shop Now



Kinsmen Gift Set 2

Kinsman Soap Gift Set, $35

Kinsman Soap

Every bar helps Iraqi refugees provide for their loved ones and reclaim their lives from the ashes of war. Give the gift of empowerment to men in Iraq. With you by their side, they will defy hate, care for their families, and remake the world.  

Our favorite: Kinsman Soap Gift Set
Bittersweet exclusive: Use 'BITTERSWEET2016' for 10% off your purchase

Shop Now



Jp 9926S

The Burmese Candle Collection, $28

Prosperity Candle

Every candle creates opportunities for women refugees building a brighter future in the U.S. and supports women’s entrepreneurship around the world. Prosperity candles are artfully handmade with the finest ingredients, utilizing high quality wax and all natural wicks.

Our favorite: The Burmese Candle Collection
Bittersweet exclusive: Use BITTERSWEET2016 for 10% off any order over $50

Shop Now



Granola 40

Keith's Originola, $8.95/12 oz. bag

Providence Granola Project

Mobilize refugee employment through business innovation -- This simple idea was the inspiration for the Providence Granola Project, a company that sells hand-crafted, all-natural delicious granola, while also providing jobs and community for newly resettled refugees. To learn more, read the full Bittersweet feature: The Very Best Granola, Made by Refugees.

Our favorite: Keith's Originola 
Bittersweet exclusive: Use 'Bittersweet' for 10% off your purchase.

Shop Now 



Mend Creative1

Faraxsan Floral Pillow, $35 for 18x18 pillow

Mend Creative

Mend Creative provides employment opportunities for newly resettled refugees in Denver, Colorado. This home decor brand provides jobs, builds community, and offers an outlet for creative expression. Mend creates high quality, custom sewn home decor, and 100% of net profits are re-invested back into its non-profit partner, Hope In Our City, which is working to foster community in refugee neighborhoods.

Our favorite: Faraxsan Floral Pillow
Bittersweet exclusive: Use 'bittersweet 15' for 15% off your purchase

Shop Now 



Knotty Tie1

Bikes Blue and White Tie, $45

Knotty Ties

Knotty Ties creates dignified employment opportunities for skilled resettled refugees in Denver, Colorado. By partnering with local refugee and asylee resettlement agencies, the company is able to offer jobs to refugees based on skills they already possess or want to learn. In addition to crafting unique ties, bowties and scarfs, the company offers custom designing for weddings, companies or individuals who just want to express their own personal style.

Our favorite: Bikes Blue and White Tie

Shop Now 



Gaia1

Safari Stripe Small Pouch, $38

Gaia

GAIA creations are handmade by resettled refugee women in Dallas using vintage, artisan-made, & sustainable materials. Its mission is to empower marginalized women through employment, encouragement, and dedication to their long-term success in their local communities.  

Our favorite: Safari Stripe Small Pouch
Bittersweet exclusive: Use 'HOPE15' for 15% off your purchase.

Shop Now



Worn1

Suede braid bracelet, $24

WORN

WORN is a socially-conscious business whose mission is to provide refugee women living in Fort Worth, Texas, a supplemental source of income. All products are hand-knit in the USA by women who have survived the afflictions of their war-torn and poverty-stricken homelands.

Our favorite: Suede Braid Bracelet
Bittersweet exclusive: Use 'WORNforPeace' for 15% off your purchase

Shop Now



Annebdesigns2

Camel Dopp Kit, $65

anne b designs

Anne b strives to provide you simple and practical designs made from quality materials sourced in the U.S.A. The company partners with local leaders of refugee employment organizations to identify, train, and employ local refugees as seamstresses for anne b designs.

Our favorite: Camel Dopp Kit
Bittersweet exclusive: Use 'BITTERSWEET' for 15% off your purchase

Shop Now 



Refu Tea1 Crop

Cranberry Cheer Tea Blend, $6.99/1.5 oz bag

RefuTea

This tea company sells delicious blends of loose leaf tea, all ethically sourced and containing all-natural ingredients. RefuTea provides employment opportunities for refugees in need of a first job and helps set them on track to rebuild their lives and develop entrepreneurial skills that lead to self-sufficiency.

Our favorite: Cranberry Cheer Blend
Bittersweet exclusive: Use 'creativiTEA' for 15% off your purchase

Shop Now



Childs Cup Full

Matching Fruits Memory Game, $29.50

Child's Cup Full

Child's Cup Full is a non-profit social enterprise with a mission to create lasting economic opportunities for refugee and low-income communities in the West Bank. At its artisan center, talented women artisans are given employment and trained to make beautifully handcrafted educational children's toys and other handmade products for the global marketplace. 

Our favorite: Matching Fruits Memory Game
Bittersweet exclusive: Use 'BITTERSWEETMONTHLY' for 15% off your purchase

Shop Now 



Agrawal 151203 6519

Gray Ghoraibi Leather Flats, $210

Darzah

Darzah is a collection of fair trade, Palestinian "tatreez" embroidered products, hand-stitched by talented women artists in the West Bank. Its mission is to create economic opportunities for refugee and low-income communities and to connect women around the world through the story of tatreez embroidery. 

Our favorite: Gray Ghoraibi Leather Flats
Bittersweet exclusive: Use 'BITTERSWEETMONTHLY' for 15% off your purchase

Shop Now 



Ne Tria 7 1

Triangle Necklace, $38

Ekata Designs

Ekata Designs is a Memphis-based jewelry business that exists to provide employment, income and training to refugees as they transition to a new life in America. Many refugees arrive with incredible talents. Ekata seeks to provide an outlet for these skills, utilizing and developing refugee women's talents and benefiting from their culture and creativity.

Our favorite: Triangle Necklace
Bittersweet exclusive: Use 'BITTERSWEETGG' for 25% off your purchase

Shop Now



Forai

Table Runner in Tonga Clay Batik, $27

Forai

FORAI (Friends Of Refugees And Immigrants) supports refugee and immigrant women as they begin home-based micro-businesses to supplement their incomes through the production of high quality, marketable jewelry and accessories. 

Our favorite: Table Runner in Tonga Clay BatikBittersweet exclusive: Use 'SweetGift20' for 20% off your purchase

Shop Now


The Give Guide

Refugees who have fled their home country typically lack the most basic of resources. Organizations caring for refugees both here in the U.S. and abroad offer various ways that individuals can use their dollars during this holiday season to support refugees by providing essential resources. 


Laces1

Sponsor a Camper, $250

LACES / Soccer Camp for Refugee Kids (DC)

LACES works with vulnerable youth in West Africa and more recently, resettled refugee kids in the DC area, using soccer camps and leagues to build relationships and promote integration. In fact, our very own Bittersweet Director, Kate Schmidgall, is a LACES Coach and helping to organize next year's camp! Partner with Bittersweet and sponsor a camper to provide a restorative experience as these little ones adjust and resettle in a new country.

Featured donation: One-Week Soccer Camp

Give Today



World Relief Winter Gear

Donate Winter Gear, $40

World Relief / The Gift of Warmth

Most refugees arrive to the U.S. with few possessions, none of those are typically warm winter clothes or coats. You can help provide winter gear such as boots, coats, hats, and gloves to help refugee families adapt quickly to their new environment.

Featured donation: Winter Gear Package

Give Today



Lsskitchen Supplies

Kitchen Supplies Kit, $65

Lutheran Social Services / Kitchen Kits

Provide a fully stocked kitchen with cookware and dishes through Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area and enable a family newly resettled in or near our nation's capital to prepare healthy meals and share in cultural traditions. Includes set of dishes, silverware, can opener, pots/pans, and mixing bowls.

Featured donation: Kitchen Supplies Kit

Give Today



Cwseducational Toys

Educational Toys, $25

Church World Service / Basic Play

Building blocks and educational toys are a pillar of normalcy for children. In the wake of trauma or when life is chaotic, these toys are therapeutic and reduce negative long-term effects. Give the simple gift of toys and help refugee kids just be kids.

Featured donation: Educational Toys

Give Today



Ircwarm Blankets

Warm Blankets, $84

International Rescue Committee / Blankets

When war or a natural disaster forces a family from home, a blanket can provide warmth and a sense of security in the most difficult of circumstances. A donation can provide 15 warm, soft blankets for uprooted families who have lost everything in a crisis, like the war in Syria, helping them stay warm and get a better night’s sleep.

Featured donation: Warm Blankets

Give Today



Plcchickens

Six chickens, $60

Preemptive Love Coalition / Empowerment

Empowerment is about more than providing for a family’s immediate needs. It’s about giving them what they need to take care of themselves. And for many, chickens are a wonderful first step. Egg-laying chickens provide a sustainable source of protein for children whose lives have been disrupted by war. Families receive up to six hens each—enough to provide nutritious eggs for everyone. 

Featured donation: Six Chickens

Give Today


Editor's Note

Every December, Bittersweet Monthly publishes a 'Good Gift Guide.' This year, we decided to do something a little different.

We are still featuring socially conscious organizations and connecting consumers with opportunities to use their purchasing power for social good. But, we narrowed our scope to focus on organizations offering care and assistance to refugees.

Each of the products highlighted in this year's guide benefits refugees by helping them adjust and overcome the immense challenges of beginning a new life in a new country. Also, for the first time, we have included a 'Giving Guide,' highlighting a few unique giving opportunities to support the work of organizations that resettle and assist refugees both here in the U.S. and abroad.

Our hope is that this issue offers a glimpse into the refugee experience—into the lives of two families, not so different from my own, but who fled violence and now face the challenge of starting over. And in doing so, we hope this year's guide helps you leverage your holiday shopping to care for those in need—the marginalized and vulnerable. 

Amanda
Amanda Sig

Amanda Lahr

Editor, Bittersweet Monthly

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