Having been working for an anti-trafficking organization for 2 years now, I am very aware of the fact that human traffickers tend to target those who lack security and opportunity, be it the runaway children of the foster care system or the refugees (read more here). With global crisis happening everywhere, many refugees are scattered all around the world. And Dallas is no exception when it comes to nesting refugees..
Lucky for some of these refugees, there's an opportunity for them to make an honest living with a fair wage, in a safe environment that promotes personal growth, Vickery Trading Co.
I went to visit their office a couple of weeks ago, met some of the makers, and had a little chat with the VTC founder, Stephanie Giddens.
Scroll down, read through each question, and learn from hmy heroine this month, Stephanie.
1. How did you get into building Vickery Trading Co?
We planned to move to Rwanda in 2013 to pursue a social business opportunity. Just before we left, the move fell through. After the dust settled, I realized I still had a desire to help empower women through business, so I had to figure out a way to make that happen in Dallas.
2. Why did you decide to help refugees? And why through sewing little girl's clothes?
My church started to help refugees in Vickery Meadows (a Dallas neighborhood packed with refugees), and I quickly realized that there was a need 5 minutes from my house. I knew sewing would be a trainable skill that required little English, so it was a perfect fit for a neighborhood with very limited English proficiency and countless languages and dialects.
When I looked at products in the social business sector, I saw a lack of ethically made children’s clothing. There was an opportunity to help women by training them to make the clothes to fill that gap. Why girls? The patterns are simpler to sew, allowing for quicker success for a labor force in-training. And let’s be honest…who doesn’t love cute little girls’ clothes?
3. In what ways have you seen the lives of the refugee women who work at VTC impacted by the company?
I have the privilege of watching the effects of empowerment first hand every day. In our office, we have what we call a Victory Wall. Since everything about life is so hard for refugees for years after they arrive, we decided to start celebrating their accomplishments - personal and professional, big and small. There are so many, but I’ll list a few of my favorites. Now that their English is improving, they can read street signs and simple directions.
They can communicate with doctors and teachers without having to rely on their children to translate for them. I get the incredible honor of handing women their very first paycheck (and second an third…). With more buying power, they are able to help provide for the basic needs of their families without having to rely on government supplements as much. With new skills and a supportive community, their growing confidence helps them to take on new challenges like learning to drive and pursuing a college education.
4. The biggest lesson you've learned from working with refugees :
The biggest lesson I’ve learned since I started working with refugees is that when we take time to get to know one another, we’re incredibly similar. Put aside skin color, clothing and language and we’re all daughters, sisters, wives, mothers…We share a bond of common experiences that help us to relate across cultural boundaries. When we start to see women as sisters instead of “different”, we accomplish a lot more and actually help people in they ways they need…and we end up making new friends along the way. We’ve been able to build an incredibly strong community at VTC by focusing on this.
Our Associates did NOT want to work together when they first started. They were from opposing countries and religious sects. But we spent time every day focusing on our similarities and common experiences - staff, volunteers and interns included. Now we’re a like a tight-knit family and it’s absolutely beautiful to watch (I know that sounds super cheesy, but it really is true!!)
Learn more about each maker who works at VTC, here.
5. What's next for VTC?
Right now, we’re focused on increasing sales so that we can increase impact . We just opened a storefront so that we’re more accessible to our local Dallas community (come say hi if you’re in the area!! We’re on the 2nd floor of the Northwest Community Center at 5750 Pineland Dr). We’re also spending the summer fine-tuning our communication and internal processes so that we’re ready to grow even more.
What an amazing community. It is so inspiring to see how we can all thrive when we put aside our differences and work together! What are you waiting for? You can make a difference whoever you are, wherever you are!
Wanna shop for some beautiful, ethically-made children's clothes?
Visit vickerytrading.org and use code MOZDEB15 at check out to get 15% off your purchase. The code is good till August 31st!