MEMPHIS — Several local Somali women refugees are finding serenity within Peace of Thread to help combat a rocky past, while learning useful skills to help them adapt in their new homes.
Peace of Thread (POT) is a non-profit organization started in Atlanta, aiming to help women refugees who were uprooted from their countries to become self-reliant and confident in their new homes in the United States. Through this organization, these women are taught a common skill such as sewing, so that they can support their families, adapt and thrive in an unfamiliar place.
Christian Brothers University (CBU) recently opened its doors to ensure that this organization had a place to work for a week. During this time, POT had a safe and reliable place for the women refugees and their children to work and learn.
While learning to sew, these refugees are taught many different necessities such as social interaction through group outings, learning how to speak English and are also taught to handle simple banking needs. They even begin to learn the value of the American dollar through the sale of their items on the online Peace of Thread store, where the proceeds go right back into the organization.
“We want them to know that everyone is allowed to work hard for the American dream. This is their home now, they can’t go back,” said Denise Smith, founder of POT. “If Memphis will open up their hearts and help them become active parts of the community, we will change lives together.”
“Just as CBU prepares future leaders to engage in meaningful service, so too are we deeply committed to partnering with organizations who are working to improve the Memphis community,” said Wendy Sumner- Winter, Senior Director of External Affairs & Donor Relations for CBU. “We were so pleased to have the opportunity to host the women of Peace of Thread on the CBU campus. Their mission of empowering women to make a better life for themselves through entrepreneurship reflects the spirit of Lasallianism, which is the foundation of our own community. As a member of the global network of Lasallian Institutions, which serves the populations from which these women have fled, it is fitting that we welcome them into their new country and new life,”
Mariam Mohamed, a recent nursing school graduate and POT volunteer says that her mother came to the United States in 2005 from Haramaya, Ethiopia and is in the program with seven children.
“As a single mom, this program is perfect for her. She can stay home with her children while gaining skills in making bags and purses,” Mohamed said. “Because of their cultures back home, most of them are happy to be able to have employment at home.”
POT has been in operation since 2011 and is supported solely by volunteers and donations. Memphis is the second city to help continue POT’s efforts. The Memphis program is under the leadership of Renee Lamb, who hopes that Memphis is receptive of POT and is willing to help.
“Most of all we need a consistent safe place to work once a week,” Lamb said. “We have a lot of sewing machines and would like to leave them some place safe. We need volunteers to help keep the children while the mothers are working and we need donations for supplies.”
POT’s founder Denise Smith says that growing up, she always wanted to change lives; she credits Mother Teresa.
“Mother Teresa was my hero, but then I realized that I am not her; I am Denise Smith. I am passionate about helping and changing lives. It is so rewarding to see a woman start to have a voice,” she said. “They don’t want a hand-out, they want to work.”