POBLO Missionaries Hady and Vickie Matta saw a way to share the inspiring talents of newly arrived refugees in St. Louis with Americans who could really appreciate their gifts. The idea came about as English students who attend POBLO International Friendship Center (IFC) at Epiphany Lutheran Church in St. Louis, began to bring a few of their handmade crafts to class.
This “show and tell” of their homemade crafts, as well as products they had made at the non-profit organization in the IFC sewing class gave Vickie an idea.
She says, “Some of the women whom we’d gotten to know so well over the past two years started bringing and showing all of us some of the beautiful things they’d made. I mean, the things they were producing in their own homes and at our IFC sewing class were just so beautiful and creative we could hardly believe it. These ladies come from a number of different countries, including Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and the Congo, and with their own hands, they were producing jewelry and clothing, and kitchen and accessory items. And, as refugees, of course, they all desperately need more income. So, Hady and I came up with the idea of hosting an exhibition of their work at Epiphany.
We talked with our English class coordinator, and she thought it would be a great idea to have an exhibition day. The students decided that each one would come with what they were gifted in making, and that they would invite their friends. So we set the date and asked them to bring their items. The day of the exhibition, we invited people from the church, and they were so glad they came. 20 refugee women showed up to display their crafts! 10 of them were our English students, and these, in turn, invited another 10 women whom they knew who were also into crafts. What these refugee women had made was amazing! Displayed on the tables were necklaces, earrings, rings, crocheted potholders and table linens, and embroidered handbags and small purses. Some women had even sewn bed linens.”
“Everyone was really impressed by the creativity of these women. The handcrafted exhibition brought about a number of blessings that day and ever since. One is that it greatly encouraged these refugee women to see just how impressed the people from Epiphany were with what they’d made. This told them that there could be a market in America for their handmade items.
Secondly, some members of Epiphany did buy some of their items. So, that very first day, they were able to make some money. After finishing, one of the volunteers from Epiphany had a present for each of the women for their participation and effort. We had food and fellowship and then we all played bingo. So, everyone was really happy, pleased that they had made some money, and greatly pleased with the nice time they had with all of us.”
“We feel that our craft exhibition day really helped elevate relationships with these English students to a new level. They were so proud to display their crafts, and so happy to know that their American friends appreciated them so much. And, as refugees, I believe some of them may have caught a dream for the future. It gave them some hope, in the midst of their very hard adjustment to a new life in St. Louis. The fact that they can so carefully craft with their hands could be a way to help support their families in the future.”