Stories from the Field


Say's earliest memory is of the forest along the border of Kayah State (Burma) and Thailand. This is where her family lived, while hiding from the military-led government of Myanmar. When she was one year old her family left the forest for a refugee camp in Thailand. After living in the camp for 15 years, Say, along with her parents, grandmother, and 4 younger siblings were given refugee status and moved to the US in 2011. She has been part of the Forai Jewelry Team since 2014.
Growing up in a refugee camp in Nepal, Rupa's days were spent hauling water and gathering firewood. Little time was left for learning handcrafts. In 2013 she joined our hand sewing project and began to learn how to hand stitch the appliques on our baby onesies. Being part of Forai helps her improve her English, gain confidence, and create a source of supplementary income. "I make extra money while working at home.  I can watch kids at the same time while I’m making Forai products.”
Lun is a true success story.  Many of our artisans come to us with handicraft skills, but others come to us without these skills, learning how to sew or make jewelry as they meet each month with their mentor. One such artisan is Lun, who has been involved with Forai for nearly 6 years. She fled Burma as a teenager to the country of Malaysia, where she worked undocumented for several years until she and her husband (who she met while working there) were granted refugee status and resettled in the United States. Lun learned to sew through Forai and a class at Oasis International. She is now our best seamstress and makes the majority of our textile products. She and her husband have 4 small children that she cares for at home.  Her husband is a hard worker, but his English is poor, limiting his earning power. He works packaging pasta to support their family of 6. Working for Forai from home on her own timetable, Lun earns an average of $150 to $175 each month to supplement her family’s income. When her children are a little older, Lun now has the skills to obtain a job in the garment industry in St. Louis. In addition to her sewing skills, the English skills she has acquired through regular interaction with her mentor puts her in a position to fill other roles in Forai as our work expands.