My name is Madhavi. I never knew my homeland of Bhutan. My parents fled the country under persecution, They dreamed of returning home to their land but eventually realized there was no homeland where our family could return. We spent 17 years at the Goldhap refugee camp in Nepal. The stress took a toll on thousands of hungry people who were living in bamboo huts, collecting wood and water to cook rice over open fires. When I was 7, my mother was ill and one of my earliest memories is carrying a 15 liter jug to get water and bring it home, 3 times a day! We were able to attend school where I started to learn English. We had very harsh teachers who wanted us to finish our homework at night, but we could only study during daytime hours as there was no electricity in the camp.
When I was 15, a fire ravaged the camp and left 12,000 refugees homeless. I still vividly remember the shouting, the smell of smoke and the anxious moments trying to gather some rice, money and clothing before the fire reached us. We survived six months in the forest with tarps for some shelter and some food brought by NGOs - but we were so cold waiting for help to rebuild our bamboo huts.
Forai works with women like Madhavi. She arrived in St. Louis in 2009 with her parents and siblings. Life in the United States as a resettled refugee has been full of challenges and fears, especially regarding crime in her neighborhood and learning the language. Although she studied some English in school, people misunderstand her or react with impatience.
Madhavi is a Forai artisan who is grateful to learn the new skill of making jewelry and grateful to be able to work at home while caring for her 15-month old son. Besides her jewelry-making skills, Madhavi’s personal and organizational skills have been noticed by the volunteers and other artisans on the jewelry team who meet together once a month to work on new techniques and distribute new projects. And thanks to the talented hands of resettled refugees and immigrants, we are grateful Forai’s online and festival sales have doubled this past year and our small non-profit is growing, which means we need more skilled hands behind the scenes. Enter Madhavi, bringing those personal and organizational skills to meet the needs of a growing organization while acquiring new knowledge and abilities to make her more job-ready in the future.
Forai’s #GivingTuesday campaign via our website, email newsletter and social media outlets will support Madhavi in her new part-time position of Assistant Sales Manager.
She will help prepare for festival sales, keep inventory updated, and fulfill online orders. And Madhavi will continue making jewelry at home. When asked how she feels seeing someone wearing the jewelry she made, she says, "I feel good! I made that!"
(photo credit: Mandi Gummels)