Graduate student Amber Dodge has a long history working with the refugees of Thailand and Myanmar. For two years, she worked in the refugee camps bordering those countries, and now she’s applying her knowledge and passion to the refugee population in her native state of Florida.
A teacher and friend to those exiled, Amber has developed a deep appreciation of their culture, and in particular, the handmade textiles woven by Burmese refugee women.
Intricate, colorful, and functional, women often use the fabric to transport vegetables from the market or garden, and to strap their babies to their backs while they work. Woven on a back-strap loom, the traditional and ancient technique is used by indigenous peoples around the world. For many women, the hours spent weaving is one of few opportunities they have to discuss social and economic issues, whereby the art provides an outlet for self-expression, creates supplementary income and community building.
To better equip the women arriving in Florida (the majority of which speak no English) with employment opportunities and financial independence, Amber will use this AWB grant to provide refugee women with the materials necessary to build their own looms and start weaving, and assist them with the marketing and sales of their finished textiles. She also plans to organize “sewing circles,” which will include refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, Colombia, Congo and Ethiopia, as well as Burma.
The end goal: provide a space for women to improve their English, preserve their cultures, and transition more as seamlessly as possible into the American culture. Learn more here!