Buffalo has a large refugee population, especially those who have come from countries like Burma, Bhutan, and Somalia. And over the years, several organizations have dedicated themselves to providing entrepreneurial opportunities to these refugees – including the West Side Bazaar, which I’ve covered on this blog before, as well as The Refugee Women’s Workshop at Stitch Buffalo.
Stitch Buffalo provides a means for women from diverse countries, including Bhutan, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Angola, and more, to create and sell handcrafted goods and apparel to the local community. The products are often created by the women at home, as well as during the several times a week workshop sessions at Stitch’s central retail location where they can socialize, collaborate on projects, and learn new techniques and skills from each other.
Over 200 women have participated in the program since its founding, with 40-50 artists being active at any given time. The community that has sprung up around the workshop is vibrant and caring, with women often swapping stories, assistance, and advice with each other and those volunteers who help to operate the program and retail store.
I was incredibly lucky to get to meet and photograph some of these women and learn more about how they came to Buffalo. Most of them first learned their intricate embroidery skills while living in refugee camps prior to making their way to America, and continue to refine their skills under the direction of the program’s founder Dawn Hoeg. You can read about a few of these women’s journeys on Buffalo Rising.
Women of Stitch Buffalo from Local Matters on Vimeo.